By Bukola Lawal
Emerging issues in the Nigerian Seaports requiresall-inclusive approach and will-powerto resolve. The evacuation of cargoes recently initiated by the management of Nigerian Ports Authority is a welcome development and shipping community should take the full advantage. In the same vein, using wagons to aid the evacuation of goods from the ports through the rail is a recurring expansion which should be fully implemented and done in line with international best practices.It is one key area where Investors should concentrate on, to better the ancillary services.
The increasing volume of cargo throughput (in-outflow) should be considered to avoid recurring ugly incidence of port congestion which is capable of suffering the Nation’s economy.The Port Decongestion approach over a decade ago brought in place the Off-Dock Terminals and Bonded Warehouses and today, it has come to stay. It is an added value to the Port development and multiplier effects reflect on the Government and Nigerians through social benefits and economic gains.
The use of barge and wagon is an effective conveyance of goods from the ports to the hinterland through rail and coastal shipping. It will drastically reduce the pressure on the roads which are presently over-stretched and consequently become deplorable. While goods get to various destinations securely, yearning of reducing cost of doing business at the ports can beachieved by the Government. The overall change should not be seen as an adhoc way of solving the perennial challenges in the Lagos ports environment alone but a development that is sustainable in the port and shipping operations.
For instance, countries like Singapore and Rotterdam control larger quantity of cargo not commensurate to their population size, but generate a lot of revenue from transit cargo designated for the surrounding landlocked countries and these are majorly evacuated from the port using intermodal transport system which rail and coastal shipping are germane. Even the Port of Mombasa, Kenya and Dar e-Salaam in Tanzania generate a lot from transit cargo. Nigeria is geographically positioned to do the same.
Shipping and seaport development in Nigeria has undergone series of stages right from the 19th century till date. The developmentis dynamic in nature and goes simultaneously with the changes in maritime operations and can only be achieved when government provides the enabling environment and works in partnership with the port stakeholders.The aforesaid development took place from 1900 to 1954, which was colonial era where resources were exploited by various management of government. In the month of March 1954, the second stage of development set in with the establishment of the Nigerian Ports Authority. This gave birth to the famous Port Act. The government thought wisely to allow private participation and the agency’s autonomy, and was named Nigerian Ports Plc, but the name was abolished and reversed to its original in 1992.Then, the third generation emerged. The year 2004 was the conception period that allowed private sector full participation and this came to the limelight with the various process of concession where the nation’s six ports were designated into 26 terminals concessioned to 18 operators for a period not less than 10 years and renewable. The concession era is the 4th developmental phase. The use of barge, wagon and possibly aircraft for cargo evacuation from the seaport is another sustainable developmental phase.
Freight forwarders through their associations should be enjoined to take advantage of this phase to ease their freighting practices. Cargo owners should also embrace it as being cost effective. The Nigerian Ports Authority,representing the Federal Government in the process,needs to develop operating guideline on the cargo evacuation using barges and wagon. And in doing so, consider all associated challenges with the development to ensure seamless operations. While I support check and control, other prospective barge operators should be encourage to key-in.
The integral challenges on the roads especially the port axis had strongly affected ports operations. The Federal Government should acceleratethe completionof the rail and ongoing road construction projects to support the intermodal transport system and for improved economic growth.
Lawal is former Acting Driector-General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.
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