The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has declared that the emergence of deep seaports in Nigeria would halt the scourge of cargo diversion, and lift the country’s status in the comity of maritime nations.
Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who disclosed this in an interview, said her administration would work to ensure the realisation of deep seaports in Nigeria.
She said: “We are determined to provide an enabling environment for a new deep seaport to come on board.
“As you are aware one of the concerns that we have that makes Nigerian ports less-competitive is the absence of deep seaport, which provides a depth of draft of about 17 meters.
“This is where the industry is going now. Economies of scales, encouraging larger vessels, which are lacking that in Nigeria now. We will ensure that we work with this new board to ensure that those which are already ongoing would be completed in due time,” she said.
Usman, however, renewed clamour for the deployment of scanners at the seaport, as part of measures to fast track cargo evacuation.
She said the NPA is currently working with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Terminal Operators and other stakeholders to fast track cargo evacuation.
“We (NPA) will continue to engage with our stakeholders. We recognise that we must enhance efficiency, we must ensure that consignees come to clear their cargoes within the time limit.
“Some of the things we are doing is pushing to ensure that vessels come in good time and are evacuated without delay. We do have attendant challenges as I mentioned, because the waiting time within our ports is not in the optimal manner that we would like it to be.
“We are working seriously with the Terminal Operators and Nigerian Customs to fast track the process of evacuating cargoes and also importantly, the inspection of cargoes.
“This is something that is great priority for the Ports Authority, for the Nigerian Government, more so for the Nigerian Customs.
“We need to deploy scanners in our ports so that cargoes can be inspected using scanners. Right now, as a lot of consignees are aware, cargoes are inspected physically.
“So, having the entire cargo that come into Nigeria being physically examined, you would look at how difficult and challenging that would be and the time frame with which we would have that attendant longer window because the inspection officers would have to literally open all the containers that come in.
“So, ensuring that we deploy scanners are key for us and ensuring that we put in place automation mechanism for improving efficiency,” she said.
Usman said the Authority is also monitoring terminal operators closely to entrench efficiency at the ports.
“As you are aware, we had a challenge with APM Terminal, one of our largest container terminals in the last few months, but they have complied with all the regulations, and have imported all the necessary equipment/cranes needed for fast evacuation of cargoes and indeed that’s what we need.
“We need responsible terminal operators that would adhere to development plans within the concession agreement. However, if they don’t adhere, we would sanction them.
“With APM Terminals, you can now see that those cranes have been deployed and are now working seriously with Nigerian Ports Authority in improving on their operational efficiency.”
Usman, who also spoke on sundry issues in the sector said: “The port is the gateway to the economy and that was clearly stipulated in the presidential speech when the president directed that ports operations remain functional even when we had a full lockdown.
“So, we proceeded with implementing and ensuring that our staff are provided with the necessary essential duty cards; and as you know, ports operations are not limited to what only the NPA does but what the larger stakeholder group does, meaning, the terminal operators, shipping companies and other third party contractors.”