• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

How concession regime restructures operations in Nigerian port system

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  No doubt that reduced turnaround time for vessels, reduced cargo dwell time, safety and security of persons, ships and cargo as well as protection of the environment are major determinants of an efficient and user-friendly port.

It is the desire to achieve these ideals that led the Federal Government to embark on concession few years ago to ensure that Nigerian ports were re-engineered to compete favourably with other ports of the world. The primary aim was to turn the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) into a brand name and a first- choice port in West and Central Africa sub-region, and in Africa.

Also, Nigerian ports were in need of huge resources for rehabilitation and modernisation of port infrastructure towards making them more efficient to meet the demands of port users and attain international standard.

This is also in line with the economic policy of the Nigerian government towards growing a robust economy that is public/private sector-driven and locally and globally competitive.

However, the basic tenet of this reform programme provides a platform for government ownership of port infrastructure and transfer of cargo operational responsibilities to the private sector as a means of improving efficiency, attracting private investment and freeing public resources for social services.

Government adopted concession due its relevance to the emerging trend of globalisation, and a new structure was put in place in line with the new status of NPA as the landlord.

Features:

∙ Emergence of larger vessels in response to economy of scale with greater cost-effectiveness, speed, improved cargo-handling technology and reduced unit freight cost;

∙ Emergence of internationally acclaimed maritime terminal operators with specialised technical expertise in cargo handling;

∙ Port competitiveness;

∙ Fluid movement of goods across international borders;

∙ Offshore manufacturing and electronic business transactions.

The concession process led to the emergence of 25 private terminal operators and one Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) initiative. The Nigerian ports were modernised through the reform process that combined concession, joint venture and subsidiaries.

Roles of public and private sector

NPA as landlord is in charge of port planning; licensing and control; port development/quay maintenance; technical regulations; marine services; conservancy (marine technical functions) and channel management.

The terminal operators, on the other hand, are responsible for cargo operations; port labour; investment in equipment, terminal maintenance and insurance of concession assets.

Iheanacho Ebubeogu, general manager, Public Affairs of NPA, said most people exhibit limitations when it comes to in-depth knowledge of the structural setting and workings of the port system. Such people, he said, blame the wrong party like NPA for any shortfall in port operation.

“Challenges in the port should be examined to establish if they are occasioned by factors such as the supply chain, border post, importer/exporter and cargo clearance processing,” he said.

NPA is the component authority statutorily responsible for controlling, administering and maintaining facilities, navigational waters and approaches to a named port or port area within its jurisdiction. NPA marks and lights navigational channels, marks and removes obstructions, improves pilot services for ships to load and unload cargo, maintains and connects land transport systems within its jurisdiction, and maintains adequate storage facilities for cargo, etc within the port area.

Functions of NPA are categorised into marine services and port operations:

Marine services are port-related activities undertaken to ensure the safe and expeditious flow of vessel traffic in port approaches, harbours and the maritime domain and the safe stay at berth when moored at the anchor. These include regulation of ports crafts ,towage mooring, pilotage, work boat and berthing operations, regulation of movement of barges, dredger, bunkering, vessel traffic services (VTS), control and handling of dangerous goods in port terminal, prevention and pollution control. Others include health safety and environment (HSE) and emergency response.

Conservancy is the technical aspect of marine functions which covers the monitoring and protection of the hydrographic regime within the port area, and they include hydrography, promulgation of survey and navigation information, dredging, maintenance of aids to navigation, managing wrecks and regulating construction works at water fronts and artificial islands.

Port operations

These include all operating aspects of managing a port embracing berth allocation access to and from the port, deployment of dock labour, cargo handling documentation and transport. Others include security, commercial, monitoring and compliance, HSE, firefighting, emergency response and marine services.

The terminal operators became responsible for cargo handling, documentation, transport and deployment of dock labour following the concession.

According to Ebubeogu, the public after the concession finds it difficult to interpret the present role of NPA in port operations.

The ports authority is aware of the two factors that move the port industries which are change in transport demand and development in technology. This informed the decision by the authority, under a PPP arrangement, to embark on the development of deep seaports that will accommodate larger vessels with deeper drafts in response to the economics of scale.

In the area of development in technology, the authority is stepping up its ICT capability starting with the establishment of Integrated Port Community Information System (ISPCIS) and Vessel Traffic Management Information Services (VTMIS) in compliance with SOLAS chapter v regulation 12, and in addition is advocating strongly, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to build an electronic one-stop-shop network. The authority in its monitoring and compliance function ensures that the concessionaires in their development plan improve on their ICT compliance and modern equipment for cargo handling.