Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, on Tuesday lamented how overtime cargoes have now taken up about 85 percent of Nigeria’s port spaces since the Covid-19 pandemic broke.
Speaking in Abuja, Bello said the situation has not just created operational challenges at the Nigerian ports, but has also created a spillover in the seaside, extending ship turn-around time and cargoes dwell time.
Some of the terminals are 85 per cent occupied. We are therefore using this opportunity to plead with you to bring these things out because a port that has 80 or 90 per cent yard occupancy is inefficient,” Bello told a press meeting and urged importers to urgently clear their goods from the ports.
But he said that the impact of the covid-19 pandemic has brought up lessons including the urgent need to fully digitalize the ports. He said the target is to ensure up to 90 percent digitalization by March 2021, from the present 60 percent.
On the steps take so far on the ports decongestion, Bello said the Council has set up a Maritime Task Team, comprising various stakeholders to synergize on how to ensure importers evacuate their cargoes during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We built synergy, including Terminal operators, NIMASA, NPA, Customs, Police and other stakeholders held consultative forum with the unions. We met every week, we were at the ports everyday, Customs also sent staff to every terminal and we were able to keep the ports open.”
Bello said that experience during the lockdown has also shown the importance of keeping the ports operational round the clock and they are partnering with the Nigeria Customs Service and Ports Authority to ensure this is achieved.
He said another lesson is that cargoes can be evacuated through the roads, barges and rail which will drive efficiency and reduce costs.
He said currently to transport a 20 ft container from Apapa to Funtua (in Kastina State) will cost up to N800, 000 by truck, however “with rail, we will have competitive pricing and easy, fast evacuation of cargoes.
“Our dwell time for cargoes will reduce from the current 20 to 7 days if we have 24 hours of works and multi-evacuation means,” he added.
He also spoke on the urgent need to digitalize the ports to make them more efficient and competitive, as physical contacts were contributing to making the ports very inefficient.
His words: “One thing we found out during this lockdown was that almost all the Freight Forwarders could as well sit down in their offices and transact businesses.
“They are looking at the expected arrival time of their vessels, they are looking for rotation of the vessels, or many other things, they can sit down in their homes or offices and do these things.
“This is our focus now and we hope by March 2021, we should reach about 90 percent compliance.”
He further noted that recent lessons have equally exposed the need to restructure the business of freight forwarding with a view to reducing the numbers to about 10 companies, with adequate professionalism and consolidation.
Bello urged the Central bank of Nigeria to intervene in the maritime industry to enable it reach its N7trillion annual capacity.
“I appeal to CBN to also look at the maritime industry and see how it can intervene directly in the logistic chain of local products,” he urged.