• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Bello-Koko: Driving port efficiency to cut costs for businesses

NPA’s readiness to deliver on the ministerial performance bond in 2024

Port business in Africa’s biggest economy is faced with enormous challenges that result in delays in ship berthing and cargo evacuation from the terminal to the importers’ warehouses.

These challenges lead to the high cost of doing business, making Nigerian port, one of the most expensive ports to do business in the West African region. Dealing with these challenges requires a sustainable and deliberate attempt by government authorities to rebuild decaying port infrastructure and adopt automated processes that do away with human interference.

Mohammed Bello-Koko, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), who took the driver’s seat about 10 months ago after President Muhammadu Buhari approved his appointment as the substantive managing director, has shown that deliberate attempt and today the nation’s seaport is reaping some of the benefits.

Bello-Koko, a private sector guru, realised the importance of automation to port business, which was why his management started championing the deployment of a Port Community System, an IT solution that every stakeholder can plug in to fast track ship and cargo clearance, improve efficiency and block leakages. The system will reduce wastage, improve the waiting time of vessels and help Nigeria to build a National Single Window.

Beyond automation, NPA under its present management has scaled up operations in recent times. This can be felt in areas such as:

Rebuilding decaying port infrastructure

A critical area of interest for the NPA is to create more viable gateways to give consignees alternatives to Lagos ports and to do that, it started with reviving the Eastern ports of Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar.

First, it awarded a contract for the remedial dredging of the Escravos channel that leads to Warri Port aimed at expanding the channel to enable bigger vessels to visit the port.

This helped to resolve the problem of the breakwater, which collapsed about 10 years ago causing high siltation that had reduced the draft of the channel from 7 to 3 meters making it extremely difficult for big vessels to come to Warri Port.

In addition, the NPA has started the mapping and charting of the about 107km Escravos channel starting from the fairway buoy down to Koko Port. The essence was to find out the draft along the channel and to ensure that the navigational aids are properly deployed in places where they were needed.

The authority recently procured and installed about 86 buoys along Warri and Calabar Pilotage Districts. This is in addition to carrying out the survey and installation of buoys at the Ijegun/Kirikiri water channel, licensing and upgrading of pilots across the four Pilotage Districts, and acquisition of harbour crafts such as tugboats, pilot cutters, and patrol boats.

Insecurity is another factor limiting the efficiency of Eastern ports. This was why the NPA recently bought six security patrol boats and deployed them to all port locations to address incessant attacks on vessels along the channels and at ports’ waterfronts.

NPA created Forcados Signal Station to capture the movement of more service boats, completed a bathymetric survey for the dredging of Escravos Channels and installed 180 marine fenders on all quays for safe berthing.

Beyond marine side infrastructure, the Bello-Koko-led NPA has also paid attention to upgrading terminal infrastructure. At the Onne Port, there is an ongoing upgrade at Terminal ‘B’, Berth 7 and 8 based on Messrs WACT Nigeria Limited proposal for investment exceeding $110 million over a period of two years.

In Rivers Port, there is an ongoing reconstruction of the collapsed berths 5 and 8 at the BUA Terminal, which was decommissioned years back, and another berth at the Ports and Terminal Operators Limited (PTOL).

It also flagged off the construction of the 4.5 kilometers access road ‘D’ at the Federal Ocean Terminal in Onne Port Complex to ease the movement of cargo in and out of the port and oversees the construction of a 6,000 metric tons Bitumen Tank in Rivers Port Complex to improve the bitumen storage capacity.

Also, the NPA has completed the modernisation of control towers at Lagos Port Complex and Tin-Can Island Port.

Meanwhile, it has started reviewing all available funding options in order to begin reconstruction of Tin-Can Island Port Complex, Berth 4-14 in Apapa Port Complex, Berth 2 in Onne, Terminal C in Warri and Warri Jetties.

Read also: Monetary policy needs to be changed — Tinubu

Facilitating export trade

Before now, export originating from Nigeria has been facing rejection in the international market due to issues around poor certification and quality compromise caused by delay in processing the agro-export products at the ports.

This results in wastage as most farms’ produce meant for export leaves Nigeria in a poor state and ends up being rejected by potential buyers.

To end this, the NPA issued operating licenses to five export processing terminals in Lagos including Diamondstar Port & Terminals Ltd in Ijora, Esslibra Terminal in Ikorodu, Sundial Global Trade & Service Ltd in Kirikiri, Bellington Cargo Ltd in Okokomaiko, and Tenzik Energy Ltd in Kirikiri Lighter Terminal 1.

With the licensing, the terminals became solely dedicated to processing export containers that are bound to Apapa, and Tin-Can Island Ports.

Presenting the license to the five terminal operators in Lagos recently, Bello-Koko said the terminals are certified as pre-gates where export goods will be sorted, inspected, certified, sealed, and escorted by Customs to the port, and the goods would no longer be examined by Customs at the port.

Similarly, the NPA commissioned one of the terminals known as Diamondstar Port & Terminals Ltd in Ijora to ensure seamless processing of export cargoes accessing ports in Lagos.

The aim was to help Nigeria optimise the benefits inherent in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement by infusing greater efficiency into the logistics surrounding the entry of export boxes into the ports.

Having export processing terminals, which is in line with the NPA’s commitment to the implementation of the National Action Plan on agro-export and the Federal Government’s desire to diversify the national economy from oil to non-oil export, enables the authority to integrate the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Export Proceed Form (NXP) into the electronic call-up regime.

Revenue collection and remittance

The NPA under the Bello-Koko-led management has been reporting an increase in revenue collection and remittance into the Federal Government’s Consolidation Revenue Fund. Between January and October 2022, the authority collected the sum of N286 billion and remitted N103 billion as of October 2022.

This has, no doubt, helped the NPA to contribute its quota in mitigating the revenue challenge facing Nigeria due to the present microeconomic crisis resulting from the impact of Covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine war and dwindling oil revenue among others.

Also, there has been improvement in debt recovery leading to a decrease in the debt owed to the authority for services rendered to shipping companies and joint venture partners.

Improve truck turnaround

After over a decade of experiencing traffic menace within the Apapa metropolis, the introduction of electronic call-up known as Eto App gave a breath of fresh air to the movement of trucks in and out of Apapa.

Today, there is a significant improvement in truck turnaround time due to the successful monitoring of the electronic call-up system. The NPA inspected, certified and issued stickers for about 3,000 trucks in order to ensure safety and compliance with ISO certification requirements and Minimum Safety Standards (MSS).

The idea was to minimise the breakdown of trucks on port access roads, and this has also led to a 65 percent reduction in the number of accidents recorded, and a reduction of traffic gridlock along the main port corridor arising from an improved standard of trucks operating within the port premises.

The NPA has ensured that complete dry-docking of some tugboats is done locally to save the country the much-needed foreign exchange.

The authority’s commitment to ensuring that transparency governs port operations in Nigerian ports in order to reduce costs for port users has started to pay off as the Switzerland-based Basel Institute recently gave Nigerian ports the ‘Outstanding Achievement in Collective Action Award’ for instituting transparency in the port business.

Also, the NPA recently won the award of ‘Best Maritime Agency of the Year 2022’ at the Daily Telegraph Newspaper Annual Awards held in Lagos for advancing trade facilitation.