24-hr ports operations and the Nigerian situation

Agencies of government in the maritime industry, notably the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), have put structures in place, according to them, to commence round-the-clock operations at the nation’s seaports.
Going by the media content, it can conveniently be said that 24-hour operations have commenced at the seaports across the country.
Having the Nigerian seaports run 24 hours is a good initiative because it will help decrease the turnaround time of vessels and equally fast-track the movement of cargoes at the ports.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Finance, and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, during a visit to the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, Lagos, late last year had asked the NCS to put structures in place to commence 24-hour operations in a bid to reduce cargo dwell-time at the seaports.
Following the minister’s directives, Customs commands in Lagos, through their various Customs Area Controllers (CACs) have come out to say that they have commenced 24-hour operations, but complained that agents have not taken advantage of the initiative.
A recent public notice signed by the NPA’s management read inter alia: “In line with the transformation agenda of the Federal Government, and the vision of the National Economic Management Team, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has commenced immediate 24 hrs operations at the nation’s seaports.

“This is to ensure compliance with the 48 hrs window for the clearance of goods from the ports.”
The efforts by the NPA and the NCS are indeed commendable, but, as many stakeholders, especially Customs agents have insisted, this initiative may not yield the desired results, considering the infrastructure at the ports and the nation’s current security challenges.
A major concern of a number of stakeholders is the issue of power supply, which, according to them, is not encouraging at the ports.
At a stakeholders’ meeting held in Lagos late last year, terminal operators had complained that power supply at their various facilities is dependent on their own generating sets and not electricity which is supposed to be provided by the NPA, as enshrined in the concession agreement.
If at all terminal operators have agreed to work on a 24-hour basis, who foots bill for the needed power supply for operations be carried out? Certainly the terminal operators will not want to bear the costs of running their generating sets for full day and night operations, since it will not make any economic sense to them, because nobody goes into business not to use available resources for optimal profit.

For the 24-hour ports operations project to be hitch-free, there must be a workable plan to devise an alternative means of power supply for night operations at the various terminals.
The issue that may also effect the 24-hour ports operations are the current security challenges in the country. How safe are the Nigerian roads at night, since virtually all the cargoes from the nation’s seaports are moved by road? Let’s say the ports environment are safe, since security will be provided, but what happens outside the ports if one has to take his or her consignments out of the ports at night after release? Will NPA provide escort for cargoes exiting the ports at night? Or if we say let the cargoes leave early the next day that will be another problem because these will result in gridlock.
For the 24-hour ports operations to be effective and efficient, government ministries, departments and agencies must first of all address the issue of power supply at the terminals, the current security challenges in the country and look for an alternative system of moving cargoes from the nation’s ports.

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