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An efficient seaport promises no delay

Why Nigeria may lose $27.29bn funding for proposed Escravos Seaport

By MA Johnson

As long as the oceans don’t rest, it will be delusional to think that a seaport should be closed as a result of congestion . Seaports are strategic maritime assets of a nation that has to function efficiently for 24 hours each day and throughout the year.

Today, shipping is the backbone of global trade. More than half of the trade by volume and value goes through the sea and handled by seaports. Keeping up with the rising volume of shipping requires that seaports are maintained and developed.

Read also: Farming on Onitsha Seaport: Enugu in Governor Mba hands

This column presented an article titled “Stimulating The Economy With Effective Seaports,” on March 29, 2022. In that article, it was stated that: “Seaports need to be competitive.” A competitive seaport is one which has a strong relationship and proven record of collaboration with industry, regulators and legislators to benefit shippers. The competitive port offers alternative services to container transport, such as an ability to handle traditional break – bulk cargo; oversized, over -dimensional project cargo; or roll -on/ roll – off cargo ranging from automobiles and tractors to defence equipment.”

“Ideally, seaports within a given country should compete to be the first choice for shippers’ supply chains by providing a wealth of intermodal connections, capacity, distribution facilities, promising no delays and shorter times spent in ports. Besides, ports should have access to an experienced workforce with a reputation for reliability. Taking adequate steps towards enhancing safe navigation within the channels, expanding terminal capacity, and working on better intermodal options for improved goods movement.”

At a time when supply chains and most economies are under increasing pressure as a result of the Red Sea crisis coupled with the Russia-Ukraine war, one would not expect our seaports to be congested with thousands of export containers because exporters cannot fill forms correctly.

BusinessDay maritime editor, Amaka Anago- Ewuzie, in her report titled “Nigeria’s $4.5 billion export proceeds at risk over poor paperwork, non- compliance…” describes how 4,837 export containers are trapped at port terminals after facing logistics hurdles moving from one export processing terminal and warehouse to warehouses in Lagos. Do we really expect billions of dollars in export proceeds and also desire to have a blue economy that will generate billions of dollars in revenue without efficient seaports? Negative!

How do we abandon export containers in a seaport for more than 2 years because exporters lack export skills and yet we want to diversify our non- oil export products, have foreign exchange through our ports and create an enabling environment for businesses to grow? When containers don’t move in and out of a seaport with minimal disruption, the seaport is considered inefficient in my opinion.

“While multiple actors are reportedly involved in making corrupt demands, the consequences of rejecting such demands are similar across seaports globally.”

Apart from port congestion, there are corrupt demands. In the past, this column amplified a few research reports that corrupt demands are most commonly made for cigarettes, alcohol and cash. While multiple actors are reportedly involved in making corrupt demands, the consequences of rejecting such demands are similar across seaports globally. And what is the main consequence, you may ask? Delay of vessels.

In Africa, a recently published report by the African Development Bank revealed that most of Africa’s 64 seaports are poorly equipped and uneconomically operated resulting in delays and processing time for cargo. So, can one say that it is because of poor infrastructure that cargo sits for a long period in most seaports, particularly those in Africa? It is not just poor infrastructure at seaports but poor incentives of the workforce including immigration, customs and security personnel.

Read also: Cross River secures $3.5bn to construct Bakassi seaport

In Nigeria, the federal government has expended a lot of resources reforming seaports in order to have them securely and economically viable. But the congestion of seaports by containers and inadequate infrastructure within the country is of grave concern. It’s on record that most Nigerian ports haven’t been effective due to inefficient cargo inspection methods, poor means of cargo evacuation, and insecurity on Nigerian waters. The inefficiency in our ports with longer turn around time, low productivity and high traffic handling time has a negative impact on the nation’s economy.

Although, it was in the news a few years ago, that the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is committed to eliminating systemic corruption and other criminal practices at the nation’s seaports. This is the way forward. Most Nigerians are of the view that those in authority should walk the talk by eliminating systemic corruption and other criminal activities in our seaports.

It is the view of this columnist that as long as our seaports remain inefficient and the business environment is unfriendly for whatever reasons, there is a cost implication to the inefficiency – depriving the maritime industry of necessary contributions to the nation’s economic growth. Thank you.

 

MA Johnson, Rear Admiral (Rtd).