Maritime stakeholders have highlighted political will, legal framework and basic technological skills as core issues that must be addressed for Nigeria to embrace the Maritime Single Window (MSW) system.
They added that the MSW regime would make the country’s ports more efficient and competitive.
They said this at the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) October 2023 virtual breakfast meeting on Friday.
The breakfast meeting had the theme: “Maritime Single Window: Navigating Path to Efficiency and Competence.”
The Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project is a collaboration between the International Maritime Organisation and Singapore.
It is aimed to develop the MSW system to allow importers and exporters the facility to lodge their clearance documents online at a single point and required permission, if any, from other regulatory agencies is obtained online without the trader having to approach participating government agencies.
By Jan. 1 2024, it will be compulsory for ports around the world to operate the MSW for the electronic exchange of information required on ships arrival, stay and departure at a port.
Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), noted that a robust implementation of the MSW would put the country’s maritime sector at the forefront of regional and continental trade.
Bello-Koko represented by Mr Charles Okaga, Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex, added that the implementation would create a significant leap in the country’s ranking on the global index of Ease of Doing Business.
Bello-Koko said that the Nigerian government must provided the needed infrastructure to support the MSW system.
“The Nigerian government needs to provide training and support to stakeholders on how to use the MSW system. This can be done through workshops, webinars, and online resources.
“There is the need to develop a communication plan to keep stakeholders informed about the progress of the MSW implementation and how to use the system, which can be done through social media, and traditional media outlets.
“Government should sustain the current practice of electronic payments for businesses and government transactions. This will help to reduce corruption and fraud, and make it easier for businesses to comply with the MSW requirements.
“There is a need to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the MSW system to identify and address any gap and this can be done through surveys, focus groups, and other data collection methods,” he said.
Also speaking, Comptroller Dera Nnadi, Controller in charge of Tincan Island Port Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), noted that in adopting the MSW system, Nigeria must take cognisance of peculiarity in port administration.
Nnadi said the country must adopt a system that suits its environment due to mistrust and limited capacity.
According to Nnadi, due to issue of mistrust, whatever the country wants to adopt should suit our environment while it considers the limited capacity that exists.
“One of the important things to address before adopting the MSW is separating regulation from revenue collection. The many sprinter groups we have dwell more on revenue generation than regulating,” he said.
Nnadi said the NCS was ready for the MSW regime following its transition from the Automated Systems for Customs Data to Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System 1 and 11 and the trade modernisation project.
Also, Mr Cajetan Agu, Director, Consumers Affairs, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said that the MSW system was long overdue.
Agu, however, emphasised on the need for the political will to make it happen.
According to him, the purpose of single window is to remove human to human contact.
He stressed that the challenges inhibiting its adoption must be tackled before it comes on board.
“There is the need to ensure that the port access road is accessible, scanners are used in the port and there should be an improvement in our multi-modal means of cargo evacuation,” he said.
The former Director, Commercial Shipping, NSC, Mrs Dabney Shall-Holma, expressed concerns over lack of an enabling law to back sharing of data.
Shall-Holma called on the National Assembly to address the issue urgently.
According to her, a lot of cybercrime and insecurity occurs online and the need for a legal instrument.
“In single window, we are scaling to create the share value for all and so we need trading and capacity development and policy focus.
“Unless we get to that, every other weak link will not be added, as we cannot bring in anybody that will tamper with the process and infiltrate the integrity of the system,” she said.
Earlier, Alhaji Aminu Umar, the President, NCS, in his opening remark called for the active participation of all stakeholders in the industry for successful implementation of the MSW system.
Umar said the MSW would facilitate seamless operations, ensure transparent maritime environment, foster customs clearance and increase the country’s competitiveness in global trade.