AfCFTA: Stakeholders Harp On Hub Status For Nigerian Ports

Some maritime industry stakeholders have noted that for Nigeria to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the nation should aim to be West Africa’s logistics, transshipment hub.

The stakeholders who included freight forwarders and shippers submitted that, there is also need to attract more investments into Nigerian ports to spur significant growth and to improve hub activities.

The shippers and freight forwarders made these demands at a recent sensitizing with stakeholders by the National Action Committee on the implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In a communique which emanated from the engagement, the stakeholders opined that “for Nigeria to become the transshipment hub for West Africa there is urgent need for improvement in infrastructure and connected services. Infrastructure, energy and electricity should be incorporated and become priorities, in the national development plan”.

The stakeholders also agreed that, “Government should promote the development of Truck Transit Parks and integrate logistics planning in urban planning in the country particularly at state level”, even as it was agreed that, “the Government of the Federation and the private sector players should team up to create an effective structure to coordinate parking arrangement for cargo trucks in order to ensure an efficient call-up process.

A copy of the communique which was sent to Shipping Position Daily on Tuesday by AfCFTA national action committee office in Abuja, also highlighted the importance of the newly-introduced electronic call up system for trucks coming into Lagos ports.

“The Nigerian Ports Authority should ensure efficiency, effectiveness and strict compliance to its Truck Call up System” the communique stated and added that, “there should be the incorporation of technology and innovations into the port system to reduce the level of corruption, unnecessary delays and other forms of illegality. The absence of truck routes on Google’s map should be reexamined and existing toll gates and landmarks should be technology driven”.

Other are that: “There should be understanding and cooperation amongst agencies operating in the Ports and full automation of Ports related Services in order to reduce Cargo dwell time and eliminate corruption.

“There should be concrete policy and regulation on the protection for cargo against unfair trade practice, ensuring timely delivery of Cargo, goods and reliable services and an established mechanism for cargo claims processing. This should include timely response, customer friendliness, speedy delivery, reasonable prices, and an established mechanism for clean processing of cargo. In addition, the policy or regulation should also address the importation of dangerous and banned commodities”.

The communique also added that, “government should revitalize all seaports and, promote development of inland container depots and indigenous ownership of ships. It should also promote inland transport networks: highway, waterways and railways to link the various entry points to the country to reduce the cost of transportation”.

It also urged that as the lead agency, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council should coordinate the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of Nigerian ports and should ensure full compliance by all relevant stakeholders.

“There should be creation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) amongst stakeholders, with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as the lead agent. This operating procedure will act as a guide to Freight Forwarders on the provision and use of Ports services”.

The communique also insisted that, “there should be proper check and monitoring of unfair practice by some Stakeholders. In addition, there is a dire need to investigate bureaucratic red tape and illegal charges within the port system in order to improve the ease of doing business”.

On the apparent delay of imported cargoes at the various terminals in the ports, the stakeholders agreed that, to benefit from AfCFTA, “Nigeria should improve on its cargo dwell time at the ports as it is significantly higher than other African countries” The communique stated that the stakeholders acknowledged that, (cargo) “dwell time increases the cost of transportation of cargo and the end users, the Nigerian public bears the cost burden. The Country’s transport connectivity rate measures are also low in the global market and this ought to be addressed as well”.

On the rising insecurity within the nation’s maritime domain, it was advised that, “there is an urgent demand for security agencies and task force within and outside the port system to effectively limit the level of insecurity and potential threats in Nigeria’s maritime domain”.