The federal government has started moves aimed at achieving full automation at the nation’s seaports. To this end, government’s agencies in the ports have been directed to kick start the process of ensuring its full implementation.
The move is aimed at drastically reducing the cargo dwell time (CDT) which is said to be one of the highest in the world according to World Bank reports.
CDT, which is the average time a vessel spends in a port in the discharge of its cargo from the time of arrival to the point of departure is one of the highest in the world.
According to the Bretton Woods institution, Nigeria remains one of the most expensive places to do business in the world as a result of the multiplicity of government agencies, several channels of payments, corruption, among other issues.
On implementation, the full automation will also reduce corruption through the eliminating human contact in the cargo clearance chain.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime, Mr. Leke Oyewole, disclosed the decision of the federal government to begin full automation at the nation’s seaports at a stakeholders’ forum with freight forwarders organised by SON in Lagos.
According to him, the plan of the government is to ensure that the automation exercise takes effect in the next three months. All the agencies of government involved in one service or the other in the ports have been informed of the federal government directive.
He explained that the idea of automation is that freight forwarders can stay in their offices or houses and complete all the processes that can make them clear their consignments.
He disclosed that the project would be handled by world class organisations, adding that Nigerians have agreed to a shift of the paradigm to be in tune with global practices.
Oyewole said that the president is worried about the influx of substandard goods into the country, adding that this has led to the death and closure of many local companies.
He called on freight forwarders to obey trade regulations and discourage importers from binging in substandard goods because of the havoc it was causing the country.
The presidential aide expressed concern over the delay and cost of doing business at the nation’s ports. According to him, a cargo that should be cleared within days spends weeks.
He also noted that ship turnaround has not improved, adding that instead of days, some ships spend about two weeks. All these, according to him, make Nigerian ports very expensive.
He equally noted the problem of under-declaration, and called on importers to turn a new leaf for the good of the national economy.
There have been an increase in the importation of substandard goods into the country by unscrupulous importers in recent times. However, SON has concluded plans to apply stiffer penalty against countries exporting substandard products to Nigeria
The Director-General of SON, Dr. Joseph Odumodu said organisation was considering taking very strict action against countries which have been exporting substandard products to Nigeria.
Odumodu said that this had become necessary as the countries concerned were not ready to cooperate with Nigeria on the efforts to check the influx of substandard goods into the country.
Noting that 95 per cent of substandard goods in the market were imported products, he said that the action against the countries would stop the death they have been bringing to Nigerians.
He had during the occasion appealed to the agents to obey trade regulations on standard.
According to him, substandard goods have two routes through which they enter the country. Freight forwarders have a role to ensure that they were not collaborators. A lot of manufacturing companies have closed down as a result of importation of substandard goods into the country.
Contributing at the forum, the National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Olayiwola Shittu said there had been misconception about the processes introduced by SON.
Describing the forum as “necessary”, Shittu called on the management of SON to make the forum a regular event, at least another one in the next six months so as to assess the progress so far.
Shittu stressed the need for freight forwarders to embrace the information communication technology (ICT) as very important in the present way of doing business in the ports and elsewhere in the world.
According to him, the rule in ANLCA is that for one to become a chapter chairman, he must have full knowledge of ICT.
Shittu noted that the major challenge facing agents was compliance with procedures, especially in the prompt clearance of goods in the nation’s seaports
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