10 years of ports concession has been a huge success- Bulangu

MallamMuhammedBulangu served in various capacities in Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) before his retirement in 2015. He served as Port Manager of Delta Port, Warri; Container Terminal, Apapa Lagos and as General Manager, Western Ports of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA). He also served as General Manager, Marine and Operations at NPA Headquarters from where he retired.

Shortly after his retirement, he joined Sifax Group as the Managing Director of its terminal operating subsidiary – Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited.

In this interview SHIPS & PORTS DAILY’s Shulammite Foyeku, Bulangu says the nation’s port concession programme carried out in 2006 has been a huge success.

Excerpts:

 

How has it been since Port & Cargo took over the management of its terminal 10 years ago?

Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited took over the management of Terminal C Tin Can Island Port, Tin Can, Lagos as a concessionaire on May 11, 2006 upon the signing of concession agreement with the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Bureau of Public Enterprises. Prior to this time, the terminal and indeed ports in Nigeria were being managed by the Nigerian Ports Authority. The concession idea which was initiated in 2003 by the federal government was an attempt to improve efficiency at the port through the landlord port model. By this model, certain aspects of ports operations were concessioned to private operators. By this exercise, a total of 26 terminals were concessioned to 20 terminal operators. It is about ten years now since we took over the operations of Terminal C, Tin Can Island Port. The said years have been event-full. The first few years were very tough and challenging. We have however taken giant steps to improve on our operations by investing heavily on infrastructure and equipment since we took over the terminal on 11thMay, 2006. We have met all the obligations in our terminal five years development plan regarding infrastructural development and equipment acquisition. Given the fact that the Terminal Development Plan was prepared in 2005, it should not be a surprise that we have not only met but have surpassed the projection stated therein.

 

Could you give us an overview of how your terminal secure the bid process?   

The process adopted for the concession of Terminal ‘C’ was very thorough and in line with international best practices in bidding. The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) under the guidance of the Ports Reform and Concession consultants, CPCS Transcom of Canada managed the bidding process. The advertisement for the Expression of Interest was placed in December 2003 in the BPE’s website, national and foreign media, as well as the United Nations Development Journal in line with the requirements of the process. Generally, two methods were adopted for the bid; public bidding and negotiated bidding. The bid for Terminal C followed the public bidding method. The summary of the process was rigorous and very thorough. First our Expression of Interest was submitted to the BPE in respect of our capability to operate, invest on and manage Terminal C. On 8th April 2005, BPE issued us Request for Proposal and bidding document having been short-listed as a pre-qualified bidder. Technical proposal was submitted on 8thJuly, 2005. Evaluation of our Technical Proposal to ensure our competence to manage Terminal C was then carried out by the BPE. The competence mentioned herein included our technical, managerial and financial competence to manage the terminal. By this evaluation, we scored 84.5%.  Two other competitors – B. Antwerp Project Limited and Traffic Management Group Limited also qualified by scoring 81.5% and 86.5% respectively. It is worthy of note that meeting the minimum technical requirement is a pre-condition for a bidder to participate in the next stage of the bid process of public financing bid opening. The financial bids for Terminal C were publicly opened with live coverage by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the African Independent Television (AIT) and the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) at the Le Meridien Hotel, Abuja on September 6, 2005.

In accordance with the rules of the bidding, Sifax Nigeria Limited with the highest Net Present Value (NPV) offer was publicly declared the preferred bidder of Terminal C. The second highest bidder was declared the reserved bidder. In line with the BPE’s directive that all bidders that participated as a going concern that are not solely terminal operators had to register a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in order to separate their other operations from terminal operations for monitoring purposes; Sifax Nigeria Limited, which bidded for and won Terminal C incorporated Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited on 20th December 2005. Ports & Cargo eventually signed the Lease Agreement with the NPA as the Lessor and the BPE as the confirming party.

 

What challenges did you have to contend with when you took over?

On taking over of the terminal, we realized that there was a lot of job to be done and many challenges to be surmounted. Some of the early challenges included what to do with the numerous NPA staff and dockworkers; the problem of abandoned cargo and equipment; the cleanliness of the terminal which was very dirty and full of junks. The terminal floor was full of grease and oil from old forklifts and other equipment. The major challenge was however the problem of equipment. All the equipments that we bidded for had either being outrightly stolen or seriously vandalized. Thus, we had to resort to hiring equipment in the early days of the concession. Because there was no perimeter fencing and any feasible gates, all manners of people ranging from hawkers of food, cigarette, soft drinks, kola nuts and illicit drinks easily entered and milled around the terminal. Faeces and other forms of human wastes filled all the nooks and crannies of the terminal. As there was no control, ‘wharf rats’ had a feed day. There was a serious security challenge at that time from across the channel. Robbers and thieves from the surrounding villages always came to the terminal with canoes to rob in the terminal. As an unusual problem deserves to be tackled through unusual solutions, we resorted to employment of arrow men to ward off the attack through the water. This paid off as the fearless arrow men with their fearful appearance were able to ward off the attacks successfully. To sum up the myriads of challenges on taking over the terminal which needed urgent attention included reinforcement of port ground and holding areas, rehabilitation of quay apron, erection of security fencing and gate houses, renovation of mechanical workshop and warehouses, repair of roads, erection of street and high mast lighting, provision of CCTV, provision of borehole and toilets, construction of Customs and other government agencies offices, construction of labour offices and canteen, the degreasing of the slippery terminal, demolition of Shed 4 and acquisition of handling equipment and generators.

 

Could you highlight some successes that have been recorded 10 years after?

As a result of the management’s commitment to turn the terminal around and the huge investment in infrastructure, plants and equipment; Terminal C has witnessed tremendous development and has transformed from the decayed terminal inherited from the NPA to a modern port comparable to any other ports in the world. As a result, efficiency has been increased in port operations. Firstly, we have greatly improved the security situation in the port. As a result, loss or vandalism of cargo through the activities of “wharf rats” has been reduced to the barest minimum. At inception, Ports and Cargo inherited 5000 TEUs capacity but today, we have grown this to 16,000 TEUs. As a result of computerization of our operations and the provision of terminal operation and tracking system, OSCAR, service delivery has been greatly enhanced. Health and safety policies are given serious attention. Apart from provision of health care for staff and their families, a well equipped clinic manned by medical doctors and other qualified personnel is provided in the terminal. This is complemented by 2 ambulances.  For illumination of the terminal and to ensure that night shifts are not disrupted, we have deployed high mast lighting system to the terminal. And to ensure 24 hours supply of light, many high powered generators have been provided. Gate-houses have been constructed to enhance the security of the terminal. We have constructed an ISPS compliant see-through wire mess fencing for the terminal. We have renovated the terminal’s operation buildings, sheds, warehouses and mechanical workshop. The toilets in the buildings have also been renovated; we have provided radio communicating gadgets to enhance communication and efficient service delivery. We have constructed an ultra modern staff canteen for the staff and dock workers. An imposing and befitting edifice has been provided for the Customs and other government regulatory agencies. We have installed digital security gadgets (CCTV camera) in the terminal to enhance its security. The surface of the quay and the adjoining open spaces has been cleared of mud and oil spillage. We have fully complied with and even exceeded our obligations regarding acquisition of plants and equipment. For instance, we proposed to buy 3 ship-to-shore cranes but bought 6. We proposed to buy 6 rubber-tyred gantries (RTGs) but bought 10. Other equipment acquired include 43 terminal tractors, 14 forklifts,  23 reach stackers, heavy-duty generating sets, tractors, among others. We have provided fire-fighting equipment and muster points at strategic locations in the terminal. In addition, regular training of staff on fire prevention and curtailment strategies are being done. We have a standard warehouse that can house about 8,200 metric tonnes of cargoes. With this huge investment that runs into millions of dollars in value, we have succeeded in transforming the terminal into a modern and information technology-driven seaport. It is one of the best run terminals in the country and without being immodest; our terminal is a sign post and a yardstick to measuring the port concession success in Nigeria. Being a wholly-owned indigenous terminal engaged in money-intensive container terminal operations, Ports & Cargo, notwithstanding myriads of challenges it faced in its ten years of managing Terminal C, is a story of huge success and a demonstration of what one can do with adequate planning, dedication to duty, determination to succeed and commitment to achieving results.



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