The talk about achieving a new port order has been on for as long as we know. Even though it may not have been defined as it is so named, various stakeholders in the maritime industry have desired, and in some cases, clamored for specific attention to be given to some areas for the purpose of improving the port system.
Issues on policies and how they affect port operations have surfaced with regards to different areas of trade; of course that of rice importation, fish and automobile readily come to mind. While government says it considers the overall functioning of the economy, the trading public and general consumers of products alike think differently about such policies and how they affect their everyday life.
Disaffection rose at different times over some forms of decay and again, pockets of ‘racing’ were noticed, to sanitise the situation. But some ‘watchmen’ argue there still exist decay, considering some practises like settling some operatives at the port gate to allow trucks in; blocking of one half of the port gate entrance with detained trucks.
Remember we are looking at hindrances that have challenged the attainment of a world-standard port system. So, rather than having the principles of standard practice in place, operations wake up to realisation through ‘calls of agitation’.
One of such wake-up calls directed attention to the need for automation in running port operations. The idea is, if achieved, the heavy human traffic in the ports would be adequately handled. Kudos was given to the Nigerian Ports Authority for introducing the e-payment platform for immediate alert on payments for onward transmission to clearance procedure.
It is also hoped that the automation would rub-off on the truck management system, where they would only come to the port through a proposed ‘call-up system’.
While the desired new port order is hoping to bring the port operating system to what obtains in developed climes, it is also hoped that port road would be built. Like some industry experts have mentioned in time past, the road leading to the ports should be so dedicated; solely for vehicles and persons going to do one business or the other at the port. Such roads should not be for a drive-through purpose for non-port users, to avoid congestion at the port corridors.
While x-raying the things that are needed to be done appropriately for a modern port order, there should also be care about how the agents in the industry fare. It is quite important and necessary to ensure that they keep abreast with latest operations development, so they can key in easily.
It is for this important factor that the Nigeria Shippers’ Council boss noted that if freight forwarders were adequately trained and conducted themselves professionally, most of the challenges at the ports would be a thing forgone.
Truly, when the role being played by the freight forwarders in international trade is considered, it is clear that they have to be knowledgeable enough to handle clearance of cargo at the port and properly manage deliveries.
This is why the initiative by the Nigeria Customs Service to hold training workshops on modern customs operations for licensed agents is commendable. That is also why it was a step taken rightly by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents’ boss to voice out to the Customs authorities on pockets of challenges still being faced in the course of their operations with the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.
In the same light, it is hoped that as welcomed by the Customs Comptroller-General, immediate actions would be taken to address areas where the challenges are being experienced.