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