The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers council, Barrister Hassan Bello has applauded the Presidents directive to keep the ports operating during the Lockdown. In an interview session with our correspondent, the Executive Secretary said transportation and banking services were the most daunting challenges faced by the Shippers council in ensuring smooth operations at the ports.
Bello recounted how Shippers council had to provide buses to transport workers free to and from the port. He also said contact had to be made with some bank executives to enable shippers access banking services to clear their cargoes from the ports. Medical supplies, gears and even food was part of the cargo that was successfully received and cleared from the port despite the lockdown.
Speaking on Lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic and how this will impact post covid operations at the ports. the Executive Secretary said there is a dire need to increase automation of processes at the ports from 60% to 100%.According to him that is ” so we have ports that are contactless, paperless, that will make our process efficient and transparent “.
” We have been flogged by covid, we have seen how people retrace inwards,that is what Nigeria should do. If we develop our infrastructure especially transport infrastructure, we sharpen our logistic chain supply,we concentrate on export of our products then we can do away with oil”.
” The port system more than ever before needs to be modernized, we can’t rely on oil. It will be fool hardy for Nigeria to put all her eggs in one basket”.
Hassan Bello called for more focus on revamping the transport sector.
” There is a lot of work to do. Let our transportation have linkages, seamless transport. Once we do that ,we can see the economy kicking but if you have sluggish ,antiquated infrastructure, it will have direct consequences on the economy because transport drives the economy “.
” I will suggest intervention by the government, look at specific sectors. Be deliberate, be concerted on it and have the will power to push reforms I’m the transport sector starting with integrated transport infrastructure “.
Commenting on the evacuation of goods from the Apapa port which he said was brokered by the Shippers council that has commenced recently, the Executive Secretary said there is a need to have modern approach to ports.
” Access to the port is important. A port without rail is something you imagine. Rail evacuates cargo at a cheaper rate so you will not have the roads clogged’.
” Nigeria has realized that so soon all the ports will be linked by rail and that will solve tremendously the problem . Nigerian railway system is a revolution, we just finished Lagos- Ibadan, to start Lagos- Kano, Port Harcourt- Maiduguri, Itakpe – Warri for that axis. Also the ports we are building, Ibom deep sea and Lekki deep sea port They will change railway business “.
” Let these ports determine what Nigeria’s economy will look like in 20 years time”.
Bello said Nigeria has all it takes to become a hub, lamenting that the high cost of Nigerians ports includes among other factors the fact that her ports are not equipped because of draft limitations to bring in large vessels.
” Right now, what we have is feeder vessels. How can Nigeria be served with feeder vessels? What we need are ports that will serve us. That is why the cost of doing business in Nigeria is high, because the small vessels , the freight is high. There is insecurity in our waters.
Other factors he mentioned as contributing to the high cost are turn around time and demurrage.
” Because of congestion at terminals, ships wait 50 days before they can berth, for everyday the ship is within Nigeria’s waters it is charged 13 thousand dollars. Ships will have to pay demurrage because they cannot exit within the three days given ,cargo will pay demurrage. We want to extend that even if we are scared that the ports will be turned to storage. However, it is important that the cost is because of inefficiency not due to the fault of the shippers”.
” The custom checks each container physically, each container takes 5 hours. If we have scanners ,do you know how much it takes ? 5 minutes. The operation of the ports is primitive, unacceptable, it has to change.