NPA: Enhancing efficiency through investment in port infrastructure, equipment
Recently, Nigerian port users have been facing serious challenges that dwell largely on cargo clearing and evacuation delay. This explains why the present management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has been pushing for more investment in port infrastructure and equipment to drive efficiency in port operation, writes AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE.
Nigeria’s ports are the most important gateways to the nation’s economy owing to the fact that about 90 percent of import and export trade is transported via water. This was why many school of thoughts believed that ports are Nigeria’s second largest source of revenue after oil.
Before the then administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the privatisation of the ports, it was seen that the revenue generated into the government coffers from the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other agencies of government at the port, was largely threatened due to several issues around poor service delivery to cargo owners.
Then, it was very obvious that the government lacks the resources and management expertise necessary for the functioning of a modern seaport. To this end, in May 2000, a technical workshop was organised by the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), in collaboration with the World Bank on achieving greater private sector participation in the provision of port services. It was against the backdrop of this that decided to concession the port to private investors on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis.
In 2006, when the Federal Government finally decided to concession the cargo handling aspect of port operation to private terminal operators, the sole purpose was to resolve those factors that promoted cargo clearing delay as well as inefficient service delivery at ports.
One of such factors was the use of poor and obsolete equipment, which kept breaking down every now and then, when handling imports and exports cargoes. At that time, many importers were paying dearly as demurrage to shipping companies due to the delay.
By embarking on ports reform policy in 2005, the Federal Government aimed to achieve the following objectives including increase efficiency of ports operations, reduce cost of services to port users, promote competition in the provision of services, improve the state of port infrastructure and promote economic growth and development.
Upon signing the concession agreement with the Federal Government, private terminal operators were bound to provide certain equipment and infrastructure needed to ensure quick turnaround of vessels, fast cargo clearance and trade facilitation, while the NPA provides the marine side infrastructure that drives vessel navigation.
On bringing terminal operators onboard, the NPA, which now serves as both the landlord and technical regulator, has through its regulatory functions not only ensure that operators deploy the necessary infrastructure and equipment needed to deliver efficient services to port users and ensure ease of doing business, but had gone further in keeping its part of the concession agreement, which includes investment in marine side infrastructure such as tugboat and channel dredging.
Just few days back, the NPA commissioned two newly acquired tugboats namely, MT Musawa and MT Ikoro-Ekiti.
The boats have Length over All (LoA) of 28.67m, Breath over All (BoA) of 10.43m and 4. 90m draft. They were built under Lloyds Classification Society standards and powered by twin MTU engines to attain a speed of 13.5 nautical miles.
Also, the power delivered by the twin MTU engines enables the tugboats to produce 60 tons bollard pull ahead and 587 tons astern, for towing operations. They are also equipped to serve as fire-fighting machines.
Speaking during the commissioning, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation, said the tugboats, which are Damen’s 2810 model, showcases the determination of the NPA to increase operational efficiency.
While identifying the pivotal role maritime sector plays in the actualisation of the fundamental objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), Amaechi said that not less than 85 percent of the nation’s external trade passes through the seaports.
Hadiza Bala-Usman, managing director of the NPA, explains that the landlord model of port ownership allows NPA to maintain some statutory functions, which include the administration of land and water within the port limits; planning and development of port operational infrastructure; easing and concession of port infrastructure, and setting benchmark for tariff structure and maintaining nautical/harbour operations as well as hydrographic survey among others.
For effective execution of these functions, she said, the NPA was committed to continuous upgrade of facilities and equipment that will enhance service delivery in all the six functioning seaports in Nigeria.
According to her, the new tugboats would enhance the maneuvering of large capacity vessels calling at Nigerian ports to berth and un-berth, which would ultimately affect the turnaround time of vessels positively.
She however assured that vessel owners, concessionaires and other stakeholders will experience better service delivery from the NPA.
Akin Ricketts, chairman Board of Directors of the NPA said the acquisition of the tugboats marked another landmark in government quest to provide world class services at the port.
“Towage service determines the efficiency of any port as it ensures expeditious passage of vessels in channels and safety in berthing them. Therefore, we are determined to ensure the continuous improvement of the state of equipment at the ports, ensuring the effective management of channel depths as well as constant upgrading of port infrastructure,” Ricketts said.
Meanwhile, to reduce the plight port users go through while evacuating goods from the port due to the perennial gridlock in Apapa, the NPA partnered with terminal operators to acquire multimillion dollars state-of-the-art Mobile Harbor Cranes (MHCs) in order to boost service delivery at the port.
One of such was the cranes recently brought in by APM Terminals Apapa. At the commissioning of the cranes, Usman promised that the authority would ensure terminal operators deploy the necessary equipment to facilitate trade within the port.
“We are here today to witness APM Terminals deploying what they have committed to providing and we shall continue to monitor in order to ensure that all the equipment is deployed. We encourage APM Terminals to continue their sustain improvement within their terminal and we look forward to providing the necessary support to enable them meet up international best practices in the port,” she said.
According to her, one of the key aspects of the regulations the NPA had been doing over the years was ensuring that every item in terms of infrastructure and equipment as contained in the concession agreement, were provided by terminal operators.
Usman further noted that the NPA recognises the fact that APM Terminals has brought in about nine cranes as part of the $80 million investment within the period of three months following the letters, which NPA had written to them.
She however stated that APM Terminals were also expecting about four additional cranes to bring the total number to 13. “It is imperative that terminal operators rise up to the obligation of investing in terminals in Nigeria and this was what we are following up on,” she added.
In the last four years, the NPA has invested over $300 million in equipment and infrastructure. For instance, as part of the effort to attract vessels to the eastern ports, the NPA commenced the dredging of Warri port at the cost of $44.861 million (N16.150 billion). The dredging has since been completed and vessels have started calling at the port.
Recall that in 2018, the NPA deployed equipment worth over $30 million in Onne Port, Rivers State to boost activity at the port. The measure, which was taken by Usman-led management of the NPA, was to boost efficiency, security and make the port attractive for business.
On May 3, 2017, the NPA inaugurated four new ultramodern tugboats acquired at the cost of $30 million (N9.15 billion). The boats were named MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya, with 60 tons bollard pull capacity, can each be used to tow the new class of ultra large containerships