Our tar­get is to clear cargo at our ports in a day – Ship­pers Coun­cil CEO

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Chris Agabi

Bar­ris­ter Has­san Bello is the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary/CEO, Nige­rian Ship­pers Coun­cil (NSC). In this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, he speaks about the re­forms in the Nige­rian mar­itime sec­tor. Ex­cerpts: pro­ce­dures at the Nige­rian ports. Con­ces­sion­ing the ports to the pri­vate sec­tor brought tremen­dous changes in the way we do things. How­ever there are still is­sues, one of which is the cum­ber­some way to clear goods at the ports.

For a long time we’ve fo­cused on sea ports, what is hap­pen­ing in the dry port seg­ment of the in­dus­try?

Our task is to make all ports com­pet­i­tive. Be­yond the sea ports, we have dry ports to over­see. We also have the truck tran­sit parks which we are on the verge of build­ing them. Rather than trail­ers and tankers park­ing in­dis­crim­i­nately, we want to have mod­ern parks for them equipped with fa­cil­i­ties. The truck parks would have ho­tels, gas sta­tions, restau­rants, shop­ping malls, and car parks. Al­ready, we sold the idea to the Kaduna State Gov­ern­ment and the gov­ern­ment has keyed into it on a pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) ba­sis.

Re­cently, NSC launched the Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dure (SOP) and the Port Ser­vice Sup­port Por­tal (PSSP). What would be their im­pact?

They are the first step to­ward stream­lin­ing pro­cesses and

How many days should han­dlers ex­pect to clear cargo at ports?

We want to clear goods in 24, eight or even six hours. The Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion has set Nige­rian ports on the part of recovery. With this, an im­porter should save at least 30 per cent of his cost. But go­ing for­ward, there will be a time where there will be no stor­age or de­mur­rage cost be­cause the ports should be a tran­sit point for cargo and not a stor­age point.

We are still los­ing cargo to neigh­bour­ing ports due to ex­ces­sive charges in our ports? How is this rob­lem tack­led?

Be­fore now, we lost cargo to Cotonou ports and other neigh­bour­ing ports but not any­more. In fact, we are even gain­ing grounds in cargo vol­ume. But we still need to be more ef­fi­cient to have that ad­van­tage. The ship­per has choices to go to the next port that is more eco­nom­i­cal and ef­fi­cient. But NSC is chang­ing the Nige­rian ports op­er­a­tions to be more ef­fi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal, which is why we launched the SOP and PSSP.

What is the sta­tus of the pro­posed Nige­rian Ship­ping Line?

I have just been ap­pointed the chair­man of the im­ple­men­ta­tion com­mit­tee on modal­i­ties for the gov­ern­ment to cre­ate an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment so that we have Nige­rian flag ves­sels. It is a pri­vate sec­tor driven en­vi­ron­ment so gov­ern­ment won’t be in­vest­ing money in it. The gov­ern­ment will en­cour­age the for­ma­tion of indige­nous na­tional fleet ves­sels car­ry­ing Nige­rian flags be­cause of the ad­van­tages. We can’t be a mar­itime na­tion with­out ships. With­out our ships, we can’t dic­tate pro­found eco­nomic de­ci­sions con­cern­ing ship­ping. There are nu­mer­ous ad­van­tages to the econ­omy. If we have ves­sels that will carry Nige­rian oil, we will have Nige­rian fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in­volved - banks, in­surance com­pa­nies. Earn­ings from freight alone will boost the econ­omy of Nige­ria. If we have our ships that means we will have ship re­pair yards, com­pa­nies and we will be able to train our cadets.

Some mem­bers with ves­sels may also want to have flag car­rier sta­tus. Won’t there be con­flict?

The is­sue of con­flict of in­ter­est has been dis­cussed by the com­mit­tee and set­tled. All the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties will be thrown to the pub­lic and there will be no mo­nop­oly. It will be con­flict of in­ter­est when you use your priv­i­leged po­si­tion to take ad­van­tage but that won’t hap­pen. We are al­ready talk­ing with sev­eral com­pa­nies want­ing to in­vest in the Nige­rian fleet.

Do we have tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­ity to own ocean go­ing ves­sels?

Yes, we do and we also have the fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity. And we have the po­lit­i­cal will too. With the ef­fi­ciency at the ports, na­tional fleet and good trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion poli­cies, Nige­rian ports will never be the same again.

Bar­ris­ter Has­san Bello

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