As Nigerian ports grapple with the nightmarish state of the access roads and high vehicular traffic, the introduction of automation and improvement of port infrastructure will bring sanity into the cargo delivery process, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, chairman of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, has said.
Automation, he said, will enable terminal operators manage access to core cargo handling bays whereby trucks are allowed in only when cargoes are ready for evacuation.
Ihenacho's call came as the Nigerian Shippers Council revealed that far more trucks than needed ply the Apapa Port access roads daily. According to the Council's findings,
about 5,000 to 6,000 trucks head towards the port roads daily when 2,500 of them are required for efficient evacuation of containers and other cargoes.
Ihenacho, a one-time Minister of Interior, and other maritime experts spoke Wednesday at the Maritime Business Round Table Breakfast Meeting on “Tariffs and Rates As Stimulants of Growth for the Nigerian Economy” held in Lagos.
“In applying a tariff, there is need for one to check the cost and benefit and strike a proper balance to enable Nigerian ports operators get what should be derived from the economy,” Ihenacho said.
He condemned the idea of the uniform Tariff structure being operated by ports managers in the West and Central African Region.
Also speaking at the breakfast meeting, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, said his agency recently carried out a road survey on Apapa port road “and it was discovered that about 5,000 to 6,000 trucks patronise Apapa ports area daily, while the entire Apapa port needed only 2,500 trucks daily to take consignments out of the port.
“The 2,500 trucks needed daily include trucks for both tank farms and seaports.
Bello was represented by the Director, Marketing Analysis and Tariff Administration Regulations Service of the Council, Mrs. Margaret Ogbonna.
He emphasised the need to make Nigerian ports automated to stop the arbitrary charges, saying that Nigeria Customs Service should work towards facilitating trade rather than see its role beyond generating revenue in order to make Nigerian ports competitive.
Bello said there was need for strategic development and collaboration for good connectivity to enable goods to get to end users as fast as possible, noting that transparency should be emulated.
According to him, the country has been able to create Port Service Support Portal in collaboration with some government agencies to enable port users channel their complaints for solutions, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“NSC had sent recommendations to the Minister of Transportation and other agencies to ensure they work on modalities to ensure port roads are accessible,” Bello said.
In her keynote address, the Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, said tariffs and rates served as tools of revenue generation to the government.
Oladunjoye who was represented by Director of Industry, Ministry of Commerce, Mr Lekan Ogunbowale, said the maritime sector was a catalyst for the growth of the Nigerian economy.
She said the Lagos State Government continued to ensure Lagos became Africa’s model mega city, and that the government had created a business- friendly environment that would attract more private sector investments.
To facilitate the industrial development, the state government has continuously invested in infrastructure; establishment of Economic Zones, harmonised regulatory framework and taxation.
She said there was need to fully harness the vast potential in the maritime sector, pointing out that the state had an equity contribution of 20 per cent to the establishment of Lekki Deep Seaport under Public-Private Partnership.
In her welcome address, the Chairperson, ZOE Maritime Resources Ltd, organisers of the roundtable, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, said tariffs and rates were used by the government in many jurisdictions to advance their nation’s economic interest, protect local industries from the effects of dumping.
She said that tariffs and rates also stimulated export, generated revenue, and that Nigeria needed to understand how to use all the tools available at her disposal to advance her economic interest and develop the country.