Otunba Femi Adewunmi is the founder and MD of PrimePort Logistics, a Port Harcourt based Logistics Company specialising in clearing, forwarding and haulage. With real expertise is in importation and exports, PrimePort provides an end-to-end logistics solution. In an interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, Adewunmi talks on how cargo volumes can be developed in Port Harcourt International airport and how the operations of Turkish Airlines into will spur economic development in the South-South region, amongst others issues.
With Turkish Airline recently operating into and from Port Harcourt International Airport, do you think this will spur economic activities in the destination?
PrimePort Logistics welcomes Turkish Airlines into Port Harcourt International airport. Turkish Airline has made a very smart move and I think their move to Port Harcourt is going to be very successful. There has always been a gap in the South-South region. Most of the current airlines that come to Port Harcourt, such as Air France and Lufthansa, focused on the business market, such as the oil and gas market.
So, there is a gap in the lower middle end of the market, such as the people that go on holidays, students and traders. These people have been neglected, so they tend to travel to Lagos to board an Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Etihad flights, amongst others. This often discourages people, as people who would have travelled more frequently will think about the distance of going to Lagos and the additional cost of flights and other logistics.
So, this is a fantastic move by Turkish Airlines and it is going to draw a lot of business into Port Harcourt and surrounding States and cities such as Owerri, Enugu, Okwa, Calabar, Abia, Aba, Warri and Bayelsa. These places are between three to four hours from Port Harcourt. Hopefully, this will draw all the other type of markets, other than oil and gas into Port Harcourt and increase their business activities in that area.
It is going to be very successful and I am hoping that it will bring in some other value airlines, so they can also tap into the opportunities. Once there are more people coming into Port Harcourt, there is more opportunity and businesses. Everybody in this region will benefit and the cost of logistics and importation will be relatively cheaper because you can ship closer to the place of use, rather than take it to Lagos and start trucking it for 24 hours to other states. It is more environmentally friendly for Port Harcourt to be that hub. In terms of cargo, it is going to create the demand.
There are lots of opportunities in the South-South that are untapped. We in the clearing, forwarding and importation business hope that this will start gaining more traction. It will increase options for Port Harcourt. Before, we were restricted to two or three cargo airlines, now we have more. Cargo can be included in the passenger flight.
What are economic activities going on now in Port Harcourt that could encourage traffic?
In the oil and gas industry, there are lot of projects going on now. The NLNG train 7 project, the rehabilitation of NNPC refineries, the new Total Gas project. We are very optimistic that Turkish Airlines will do well and these projects will bring in more airlines and we want to see Turkish Airlines quickly bring in cargoes planes.
Do you also think Turkish Airlines’ presence in Port Harcourt will increase investment in oil and gas?
I think the market for Turkish Airlines is going to be different. I think it will be traders and personal travel. It could supplement the oil and gas a bit but I don’t think it will be significant for oil and gas because most if the traffic from oil and gas is from Huston, Singapore, Dubai, Netherlands and UK. Turkey is more of shipping and textiles. It might help the marine industry because there are lots of marine businesses there.
In your little ways, what are you doing to ensure export of Nigerian products or commodities are encouraged?
We are service providers and we provide services to exporters and importers and we cannot on our own drive export but what we can do is to ease exports. This is to ensure the logistics flow and the cost of providing those logistics services in such a way that it induces and helps exports is provided. We cannot impact directly because we are just a service provider but as a company, we provide export services to freight forwarders. Fifty percent of our earnings in Primeport Logistics is in direct inflow. We partner with freight forwarders to provide export services to them. By providing these services to foreign partners, we are been paid in forex and that money is coming back into Nigeria.
How do you think the government can encourage exportation through our airport and ports in Port Harcourt?
I think the government is already doing a lot. We are not an industrial country and our farming is predominantly in the north and I think every area needs to specialise in what is available in that area. Because of the pollution caused by our oil and gas on the environment, South-South is not a very friendly area for farming to thrive. However, they can look for ways to export by products of oil, which is some petro-chemicals, fertilizer and industrial fishing amongst others. The government is an enabler. They need to focus on policies, improving ease of doing business, reducing corruption amongst others. These are some of the things the government is doing and it takes time. I think the South-South should focus on what we have. Farming cannot be for every single part of Nigeria. We need to leverage our strength and look for avenues to drive them.
Lagos handles about 70percent of air traffic. Do you think there is a market for other international carriers who wish to join Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Cronos Airlines in Port Harcourt?
The potential in the South-South is huge and a lot of it is untapped. There is a lot of gap in the market and everything is focused on Lagos and Abuja. This traffic going to Lagos is potential traffic that can come to the South and it is not coming because there are lot of historical issues. That is why my company and some few others are thriving to ensure Port Harcourt gains back its position as a hub. The problem with Port Harcourt is that there is no volume, so the airlines won’t come. The structure is not there. Do you put the structure first and then hope that the traffic will come? So, we are focusing and encouraging direct importation into Port Harcourt and we have made a lot of difference since we started in 2014. We have impacted the kind of volumes that come. Lagos is doing more than what they are supposed to be doing and that is why we have challenges in Lagos. Port Harcourt is under performing because the traffic is going somewhere else. So it needs to be spread more, so it is a win-win situation.
Functional ports appear to be focused in Lagos alone. What do you need to do to decentralise these ports?
There are two main ports in Port Harcourt and there are various other privately managed ports and jetties. Sadly, everybody only knows Lagos and don’t see the value of coming to Port Harcourt because of perceived problems of militancy and insecurity. However, those things are no longer there, they are just perceptions. I have been in Port Harcourt for many years and I have no problems and I have not experienced any problem. We are successful here. There is less competition and opportunities in Port Harcourt.
What kind of cargoes does Port Harcourt currently export, especially with the deliberate efforts by the federal government to drive exports?
The main export cargo traffic in the South-South is in repair and return of oil and gas equipment. A lot of people send equipment for repair and bring back. Exports are also predominate equipment that expatriates or companies want to use to do something and they take it back, especially when they are not in Nigeria. There are some farm produce but the airport do not have a refrigerator and there is a limit to what can be done without the facilities.