Togo, Benin and Ghanaian ports have always deprived Nigerian ports of cargoes due to cargo diversion by importers who seem to want better services and port efficiency. However, recent indicators reveal that Nigerian ports are beginning to wrest back lost cargoes from these ports, writes TOLA ADENUBI. Excerpts:
NIGERIAN ports, before now have been described as the most expensive and inefficient in the West and Central Africa sub-region. This made the nation’s seaports unattractive to importers who prefer diverting cargoes meant for Nigerian ports to neighboring countries that have efficient port system.
For instance, neighboring Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana seaports received cargoes meant for Nigerian port because of their efficiency and to meet the yearnings of the importers and clearing agents.
Dilapidated port infrastructure, long cargo dwell time, vessels turnaround time, long clearing process and port congestion occasioned by traffic gridlock on the port access road were basic challenges that have retarded the viability of Nigerian ports.
This myriad of challenges contributed immensely to cargo diversion to neighboring countries by importers, thereby affecting the nation’s revenue generation and cargo throughput.
However, in the words of some stakeholders, the last few years have turned around for good following painstaking work to enforce reforms by the Mohammed Bello-Koko led management following his appointment as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
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Since Bello-Koko’s came onboard, Nigerian seaports have become preffered destination to Nigerian importers as well as to land locked neighboring countries who prefer to route their transit cargoes through the nation’s seaports.
Speaking with select maritime journalists, a business consultant, Mr. Femi Oshotuyi explained that one of the banes of development in the maritime sector before now is the non-availability of reliable and accurate data for planning.
According to Femi Osho, “Since his appointment, the Bello-Koko led NPA ensured the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for data digitalization and exchange for effective integration of ports statistics with National Database.
“The NPA boss also approved the upgrading of the Authority’s website and Daily Shipping Position Portal and automated archiving, records management as well as upgrading of the authority’s Website (www.nigerianports.gov.ng) to a real time fully interactive platform as well as upgrade of the Daily Shipping Position Portal to be more user-friendly.
“Also, we should not forget that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), was engaged on development of Port Community System pursuant to the IMO instrument on automation and digitalization of port processes.
“This was followed with the award of consultancy for the deployment of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS); a maritime safety measure that equips with Domain Awareness Capability to enable Nigeria guide and provide safety information to vessels within her channels and ports approaches in line with the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) conventions.
“All this has improved data integrity sourcing in Nigeria’s maritime domain.”
Enhanced navigational aids, port security
In the area of navigational aids, operational capacity and port security, available data revealed that NPA, under the current management has provided and installed 86 Buoys for Warri and Calabar Pilotage Districts, for proper channel marking and route mapping.
The NPA has also acquired Harbour Crafts (Tugboats, Pilot Cutters, and Patrol Boats) to eliminate delays associated with berthing and sailing of vessels and improve efficiency at the Ports.
Others are: Dry-docking of various marine crafts to increase the fleet of marine crafts available for vessel support operations, procurement and deployment of Security Patrol Boats (SPBs) to all Pilotage Districts to address incessant attacks of vessels along the channels and at Ports’ waterfronts, establishment of a robust partnership with the EU-funded West and Central Africa Ports Security (WeCAPS) towards risk prevention, vulnerability assessment of port infrastructure, skills acquisition to port personnel to strengthen the security and safety of the Nigerian Ports and standardisation of Operational Procedures for Different Activities such as barging, private jetties, pilotage, vessel berthing/sailing etc.
Enhanced operational capacity, infrastructure
Another achievement of the Bello-Koko leadership was the creation of Forcados signal station to enable the NPA capture the movement of more service boats, commencement and completion of bathymetric survey for the dredging of Escravos Channels and increase Container holding capacity at Rivers Port arising from conversion of unused space within PTOL Terminal into stacking area. Others are; upgrading of infrastructure at Terminal ‘B’, Berth 7 and 8, Onne Port Complex through PPP investment by Messrs WACT Nigeria Limited of above USD110Million over a period of two years. This has so far achieved 62 percent completion. Approval was granted to Messrs Ringadars for the construction of 6,000 metric tonnes Bitumen Tank in Rivers Port Complex to improve the company’s bitumen storage capacity, which will ease their operations and have impact on the infrastructural development of the South-South. The construction is now at 58 percent completion.
The current management who has been at the forefront of championing the rehabilitation of collapsed port infrastructure secured approval for the construction and rehabilitation of Quay Infrastructure at Berth 15, Lagos Port Complex, Apapa. Also, approval was given for the Completion of Road Network for the integration of Berth 9,10, &11 at Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne Port. Bello-Koko also got approval for the construction and rehabilitation of Control Towers at Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port, approval for the Supply and Installation of 180 Marine Fenders to boost the overall integrity of the quay facilities and serve as precautionary measure to prevent any form of accident arising from direct vessel impact on quay wall and completion of consultancy services for the shore protection and rehabilitation of the Escravos breakwaters, survey and mapping of Warri Pilotage District from Fairway Buoy-Warri-Sapele up to Koko Port to the prescribed standards of the UKHO Charts, which had been left unattended for decades.
In the area of revenue generation and remittances to Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation, the NPA has seen its revenues steadily growing from N317 billion in 2020 to N361billion in 2022 and remittances progressively soaring from N80 billion in 2020 to N91 billion by financial year end 2022.
Also, the NPA under Bello-Koko has created new businesses and attendant job opportunities such as the Barge Operations services, which apart from reducing pressure on the roads has grown into a N2billion business both from direct investment and accompanying externalities.
Others are; the licensing of additional truck parks to increase capacity of trucks servicing the Lagos Ports, licensing of 10 Export Processing Terminals (EPT) to facilitate exports at Nigerian Sea Ports. This is to provide a one-stop shop for export where quality control, cargo assessment by all government agencies and issuance of good-to-ship clearance will be obtained.
There has also been a significant reduction in truck turn-around time due to successful implementation of the E-Call Up System. Enforcement of Minimum Safety Standards (MSS) on trucks which stipulates that all trucks accessing the Ports are inspected, certified and issued stickers to assure safety and 65% reduction in number of accidents recorded, arising from improved standards of trucks operating within the Port premises.
Revenue review, port expansion
The NPA in the last one year, ensured upward review of estate rent to reflect the current economic realities with a view to improve the Authority’s receivables from the management of its fixed assets. impending introduction of charges for barge movement, which had operated on pro-bono since inception in 2018.
Bello-Koko has ensured the commissioning of actual work towards the 25-year Port Master plan, ISO Certification of Onne and Calabar Ports with all other ports at advanced stages of certification, commissioning of the Lekki Deep Seaport in record time and attendant job creation opportunities from coastal shipping activities arising forthwith, in the last one year. Also, the NPA has secured FEC approval for the commencement of construction of the Badagry Seaport, provision of technical support for the establishment of Ondo and Benin Ports.
The organization review embarked upon by Bello-Koko has won the NPA a level 5 “Platinum Level” by the Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR) due to the current Management’s provision of an enabling environment for exceptionally high quality of work in all essential areas of responsibility, resulting in an overall quality of work that is superior, exceptional and unique.
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