SIFAX Waxes Stronger Amids Challenges of Port Concession

In 2006, when the port concession programme of the Federal Government which heralded private take- over of port operations from the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) came on stream, not many believed it could succeed.
The skepticism of the cynics stemmed from their warped belief that modern port operation is sophisticated, capital-intensive and technologically-driven which should not be entrusted in the novice hands of indigenous operators who incidentally formed the bulk of terminal owners in the new dispensation.
Almost six years down the line, the initial skepticism, fears, uncertainty and doubts over the technical abilities and technological competence of the indigenous operators have given way to praises, commendations and satisfaction by the die-hard antagonists who were awe-struck by the quantum of value which the local operators have so far added to port operations.

SIFAX Group, one of the leading conglomerates and terminal operators in the country, has in no small measure helped to restore the confidence, respect and hope in the operational abilities of indigenous operators.
The company, regarded as the flagship of indigenous terminal operations, has come to change the face of port operations and redefined efficient service delivery since it took over the running of Terminal ‘C’ at the Tin Can Island port.
INVESTMENTS: SIFAX Group, through one of its subsidiaries, Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited, operators of Terminal ‘C’ at the Tin Can Island port, has injected about N11,982,909,724.30biliion in both human and materials/infrastructural facilities, a development that has contributed to the elevation of terminal operations in Nigeria to a world standard.

SIFAX Group has so far injected a whooping sum of Eleven billion, nine hundred and eighty two million, nine hundred and eighty nine naira (11,982,989,724.30) to upgrade the facilities and finance its aggressive equipment acquisition programme.
On its equipment acquisition programme, SIFAX has so far expended the sum of N7905.5billion between 2006 and the first three quarters of 2011.
An additional princely sum of $15million was invested in the modernization of the terminal into a world class facility.
AVAILABILITY OF PLANT AND EQUIPMENT: The management of the terminal attaches great importance to the availability of plant and equipment on which efficient and quick service delivery is built. As a result, the equipment profile of the terminal is shored up through new acquisition on yearly basis at a great cost.

As a result of its deliberate policy of aggressive acquisition of plant and equipment to continually shore up its bourgeoning equipment profile, PORTS AND CARGO terminal can boast of large collection of modern, sophisticated plant and equipment in its ‘armoury’.
Between 2006 when the company took over the terminal and now, SIFAX has acquired four LHM Liebherr cranes as against the three promised in its post- acquisition plan. This particular equipment cost N2.246billion. In addition to this, there are 26 Hyster and Kalmar Reach Stacker handlers, four(4) freight lifters(empty container handlers), 17 general cargo forklifts, 27 terminal tractors,32 terminal tractor trailers and 35 Iveco trucks.
To further boost its plant acquisition policy, the management of SIFAX Group, led by its indefatigable Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Barr. (Dr) Taiwo Afolabi, recently signed an agreement with Konecrane Finland Corporation, Sweden to manufacture and deliver 10 units of Rubber -Tyred Gantry cranes to the terminal in the first quarter of 2012 at a huge cost running into millions of dollars.

As a result of this conscious policy of plant acquisition programme,the terminal has achieved 70 per cent availability of cranes, 60 per cent availability of Reach Stackers, 70 per cent availability of empty handlers, 60 per cent availability of Mafi Trucks and 80 per cent availability of forklifts. The terminal is unrelenting in its efforts to achieve 100 per cent availability rate of plant and equipment in the nearest future.
STAFF WELFARE: Due to its core belief in the value of human resources as catalyst for growth and development of an organization, SIFAX Group does not spare expenses in investing in capacity building of its 1084 staff through trainings and re-trainings in modern terminal operations.
To this end , the sum of N53.328million has so far been spent on training of staff, some of whom were sent to Belgium, USA, Austria, Spain and South Africa for various courses to enhance their performance.
The galaxy of its crack team is made up of highly-skilled and tested professionals who have vast experiences in modern terminal operations carefully assembled to drive the vision of the company to be model terminal operators.

CAPACITY OF THE TERMINAL: Terminal ‘C’ is made up of three(3) berths with total length of 795 metres and 10.5 metres depth and has the capacity to handle 8000 TEU’s full containers,3000 TEU’s full export containers,2400 TEU’s empty container and 150 containers of Reefer plugs. The terminal also has 1200m2 at 600m2 covered space for general cargo while it could accommodate1500 vehicles. For ease of examination, the terminal has capacity for 181 TEU.
To enhance its capacity to handle heavy equipment and to withstand stress, works are on going to strengthen and resurface the terminal. Also, periodic degreasing of the terminal is being undertaken to keep the place neat, tidy and customer-friendly.
Recently, a contract of N990million was awarded for resurfacing and re-flooring the entire terminal.
YEARLY CONTAINER TRAFFIC: As a result of its efficient service delivery, the terminal attracts high container traffic . In the last five years since 2007, the terminal has handled 444,734.0 full import containers, 42,199.0 full export containers and 361,896.0 empty containers while general cargo within the same period accounted for 2,171,889.0.
The break- down of the volume of cargo traffic at the terminal since 2007 shows that year 2007 witnessed 44,994 full container imports, 5,233 full container exports and 39,616 empty containers. 92,498 full container imports,8,726 full container exports and 5,6227 empty containers were handled in 2008.In 2009, 8,0086 full container imports, 8,488 full container exports and 85,215 empty containers passed through the terminal while 2010 recorded 99,762 full container imports, 8,832 full container exports and 96,888 empty containers. In the first three quarters of 2011, the terminal handled 127,412 full containers, 83,950 empty containers and 10,920 full export containers.

As regards general cargo, the break-down shows that 844,658 were handled in 2007, 493,966 in 2008, 270,954 in 2009, 199,215 passed through in 2010 while 363,095 units were handled in the first three quarters of 2011.
VESSEL PRODUCTIVITY/BERTH OCCUPANCY: Due to the attractive nature of the terminal, the facility is highly patronised by its appreciative customers. This has led to a progressive increase in call of vessels to the terminal and full utilization of its three berths.
The yearly vessel productivity at the terminal shows that in 2007, it recorded 13.1 per cent, in 2008, it had 11.0 per cent while the same margin of 11.0 per cent was achieved in 2009 and 15.9 per cent recorded in 2010 while 7.0 per cent was achieved in the first three quarters of 2011.
This however translates to berth utilization of 46 per cent in 2007, 55 per cent in 2008, 54 per cent in 2009, 32 per cent in 2010 and 45 per cent in the first three quarters of 2011.
In the same breath, the terminal recorded berth occupancy of 46 per cent in 2007, 55 per cent in 2008, 54 in 2009, 52 per cent in2010 and 50.5 per cent in 2011.

OBLIGATIONS TO NPA: SIFAX Group has been a responsible lessee as it has not defaulted in its financial obligations to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) it took over the operations of the terminal in 2006.
Consequently, the Port and Cargo Terminal paid $2million commencement fee at the take- over of the terminal in 2006. Similarly, the sum of $692,100.80 was paid to NPA for its movable assets met at the terminal, most of which had been stripped and vandalized.
The Group also paid a cumulative amount of $40,392,158.42million as lease fee since 2006 till July 31st, 2011. The fee is payable on monthly basis.
On throughput fee, the company has paid a cumulative amount of $10,012,212.65million to NPA since 2006 till July, 31st, 2011.
The yearly break-down of these payments shows that $3.947million was paid in 2006, $8.576million was paid in 2007, $9.682million was remitted in 2008 while $13.672million was paid in 2009, $10.721million was paid in 2010 while $8.139m was remitted up till Septeber, 2011.

MODERNISATION DRIVE: Operations in Ports and Cargo Terminal are fully automated. Containers are electronically tracked for easy access and loading which ensures faster and efficient service delivery.
The terminal is well lit in the night with enhanced electrification project backed by four (4) 250KVA and other small capacity generators. The agreement signed by the SIFAX Group with SDMO company to provide power fully automated generators is expected to increase the existing power capacity of the terminal from 1000KVA to 3000KVA.The system is automated which does not require human interface for operational interchange between the generators.
New pedestrian gate with caroseller has been installed to control indiscriminate movement of persons into the terminal. Also, CCTV cameras have been installed in the terminal, all geared towards ensuring maximum security of cargo resident in the terminal.
The terminal floors and new entry gate are being re-surfaced to give the terminal modern and sophisticated look which will make it to compare favourably with any other terminals in the world.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: As a responsible corporate citizen who believes in giving back to the society where it operates, SIFAX has embarked on so many humanitarian projects meant to add value to the lives of people.

Some of these charitable works include but not limited to the following:
A) N750,000 sponsorship of Apapa Local Government Educational Area Junior Festival in 2007.
B) Procurement and refurbishment of operational vehicles for the Tin Can Island Command of Nigerian Police Force at the cost of over N3.5million.
C) Sponsorship of Annual Inter-House sports meet of Atlantic Hall School and Holy Trinity Primary School at the cost of over N3million.
D) Construction and furnishing of 1000 seater lecture theatre for Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho at the cost of N50million.
E) Beautification of Warehouse Road Roundabout in Apapa at the cost of N6milliom with N500,000 monthly maintenance cost.
F) Donation of N1million to carry out surgery on an accident victim at Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital.

Inauguration and funding of Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi, a non- governmental organization that has affected the lives of so many needy in the society.
CHALLENGES: The world class service which the terminal is noted for is being delivered amidst man-made constraints. Among some of these constraints is the pervasive and intrusive presence of too many agencies at the port. For instance, there are seven agencies at the exit gate alone. They include Nigeria Customs, Nigeria Police, NAFDAC, SON, NPA, Customs gate unit and ANLCA.
In addition, there are too many pedestrians and hawkers on the access road while it is a common sight to see obsolete trucks being repaired on the access road. Containers or cargo seized or detained by government agencies litter the access road. All this presupposes that access into and from the terminal is seriously being hindered by the encumbrances which are threatening the smooth operations in the terminal.

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