…sets 2021 target for ports digitization
…freight forwarders to re-capitalise
By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intervene in the nation’s maritime industry, to enable it to realize the huge potentials of the sector.
The Executive Secretary (ES), of the council, Barr. Hassan Ballo, told journalists, in Abuja, that the sector was capable of generating about N 7 trillion, annually, but was hampered by inadequate funding.
According to him, “CBN should look at our direction. Here is an industry that will give oil the run for its money. N7 trillion per annum is a huge hanging fruit waiting to be realized.”
Barr. Bello who commended the apex bank for its intervention in the agricultural sector said that the nation would have been facing a food crisis, if the CBN had not intervened in massive rice production, especially with the banning of export of rice by many countries, following the global COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has created operational challenges for Nigerian ports with about 85 of spaces taken up by cargoes.
He, therefore, urged importers to take urgent steps to clear their goods from the ports.
His words, “Some of the terminals are 85 per cent occupied. And we are using this opportunity to plead with you to bring these things out because a port that has 80 or 90 per cent yard occupancy is an inefficient port.
“This will also have a spillover in the seaside where there will be waiting time, ship turn-around time extended, cargoes dwell time has been extended.”
Going by the experience of operations at the ports during the lockdown, Barr, Bello said that it was critical for the ports to open round the clock, every day of the week.
His words, “Nigerians ports can run 24/7. You know Nigeria ports operate only Monday – Friday. Airports operate 24/7. Through our partnership with the NCS and the NPA, we want to carry out a raking of what is possible for us to operate the ports 24/7 and do better in the operation of our ports.
“We also learnt that we can have an evacuation of cargoes through the roads, barges and rail. For every trip by the trail, you remove 38 trucks. The railway will give the trucks for their money.
“If we have a train, then the cost will come down. Even now we have the barges giving the trucks a run for their money. Before we had a monopoly but the narrative will be different from the barges and the trains coming to pick goods from the ports. The cost of transporting goods from the ports will crash.
“Currently, to transport a 20 ft container from Apapa to Funtua (in Kastina State) will cost you N800, 000 by truck.
“We will have competitive pricing and easy, fast evacuation of cargoes. Our dwell time will reduce from the current 20 to 7 days of cargoes dwell time if we have 24 hours of works and multi-evacuation means.”
Consolidation of Freight Forwarding
He also said that the business of freight forwarding must be restructured in the nation, with a view to reducing the numbers to about 10 companies, with adequate professionalism and consolidation.
His words, “Working with freight Forwarders has exposed us to very many important things. They are vital to ports operations, also truckers. But Freight Forwarding must be professionalized and consolidated.
“There are so many people in Freight Forwarding. One container can have up to 20 people following it. What for. So we have to reform that very important profession. Many of them are very focused but we have told them that they must be reform.
You must reform or you are shipped out. They must be consolidation. They have to come together. We need like 10 Freight Forwarders and they must be capitalized.”