Modern ports globally are striving to achieve optimal efficiency in their operations to outclass their regional or global competitors in the business. This is why they invest their resources in plants and equipment to improve their services.
Furthermore, managements of ports are investing more funds on ICT infrastructure to be more efficient not only for higher returns but to permanently win the confidence of their clients who are often demanding better quality services.
Realising the need to modernize Nigerian Ports, the Mallam Habib Abdullahi-led management of NPA, has risen to these challenges by investing hugely in IT infrastructure to ensure the authority offers efficient and quality services to its sophisticated and varied clients who are always demanding improved services comparable to what obtain in other developed ports.
The challenges are enormous, requiring a lot of investment. Nigerian ports must respond to enable them have their market share of the West and Central African competitive industry.
One major solution to these challenges is massive investment in IT infrastructure which the NPA management is currently executing with brilliance and sense of business.
It is interesting to note that NPA’s management has fully embraced Information Communication Technology (ICT), spreading the culture among its employees and bringing in much excitement.
NPA’s major step in this direction commenced early last year with the installation of Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Sterling Towers on Lagos Island.
Interestingly, the Trade Facilitation Centre is the central nervous system of all maritime activities in the Nigerian maritime domain. The centre effectively captures data on all ships sailing in and out of Nigerian waters.
Furthermore, it provides safety for the port environment; monitoring ship and cargo traffic. Since inception, it has reduced revenue loss to NPA.
Next, the NPA management some weeks ago introduced e-payment operations, reducing time wasted in payment process and providing a direct link between the organization and its clients. This IT-based initiative also improves the turnaround time of vessels.
Again, NPA has taken a quantum leap by installing the ICT and computer galleries at its corporate headquarters in Lagos, its Abuja liaison office and at the six port locations in Lagos, Delta, Rivers and Cross River States.
NPA management’s massive investment in IT infrastructure is a result oriented initiative that should be applauded especially now that port operators and the authority’s varied clients clamour for greater efficiency.
The ICT will indeed promote efficiency, plug revenue leakages particularly at this time when the nation’s public service is bedeviled with long-standing malaise such as poor service delivery and sharp practices in revenue generation and collection. It is certain that the ICT Help Desk which the organisation established alongside will achieve its objectives. Revenue leakages will be halted, port operations will improve significantly, the authority and its operations will earn credibility and Nigerian ports will attract more businesses and investments.
In addition to these, the officials of NPA will be able to attend promptly to complaints of clients, thus reducing the usual wrangling between clients and NPA officials.
While NPA has taken this major step with zeal and patriotism, the worry of keen watchers of the industry is the lukewarm attitude of many stakeholders towards investment in IT infrastructure that will accelerate seamless port operation. For example, many stakeholders – Customs, Banks, Shipping Companies, Terminal Operators, Freight Forwards and Importers are not fully inter-connected.
How will these and other players in the port system enjoy the services of the NPA’s ICT Help Desk? This critical question need to be addressed if the ports are to achieve higher productivity and efficiency required to boost the national economy. Freight forwarders and importers, most of whom are lagging behind, must fully integrate themselves into this initiative by embracing ICT fast so as to fully realise the objective of port reform.
The ICT has also been designed to promote ICT culture among NPA workforce. This will soon manifest and bring positive results that will be beneficial to the maritime industry. It will also enthrone international best practices, a sine qua non in global business as explained by the NPA Managing Director.
The ultimate goal of this initiative is to drive NPA towards total transformation, reposition it and enable Nigeria attain hub status in West and Central Africa. All stakeholders should therefore cooperate and surmount hurdles on the path of attaining this goal.