The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has urged Port Health Services to ensure timing in port clearance and implement the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM ) for port system efficiency in the country.
Mr Hassan Bello, NSC’s Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer made the call when he visited the Director of Port Health Services, Ministry of Health, Dr Geoffery Okatubo, in Abuja.
Bello stressed on the essence of time in port operations noting that cargoes dwell time should be within three to seven days as against 20 to 21 days
“So, we want just like any agency for the port health to be conscious of time. Time is of the essence in port clearance. So, when they board the ship it should be as soon as the ship arrives.
“And, it should be for a minimum number of maybe 30-45 minutes and the number of officers on board should be maximum of three.
He frowned against certain infractions on board of the ship such as bribery among others, which he said the manual has addressed.
“As a matter of fact, we have made some arrests, we have confiscated money and certain infractions which we noticed. There have been stray infractions by members of your team.
“But we said it is our fault because we do not have any enlightenment toward this, we didn’t give any instruction, so we like that to be streamlined,’’ Bello said.
He noted that if all these were done, it would ensure faster time and more efficient ports, adding that it would also help in attracting international ship owners to the Nigerian ports.
The NSC boss urged for effective communication between the ship and port health services to aid efficiency of the ports.
On vessel agent that provided transport to vessels, Bello said it was not acceptable as they were the first point of compromise and could be of negative influence.
While restating that transportation to the vessels should be provided independently or by the government, he urged port health to penalize infractions onboard vessels.
According to Bello, the Nigerian ports have not been doing very well and there is need for relevant agencies and stakeholders to collaborate to ensure improved port system.
“This is an important manual. Our ports have not been doing well, they are improving everyday but there is need for us to own up to what we are supposed to do.
“Everybody in the port must have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) we can’t just be there at the ports like headless chicken running all over.
“Everybody has his function, where, how, why and who is to do what function, so that there is orderliness, efficiency, there will be reduction of corruption,” he said.
He described the manual as the bible of port operations stressing that everybody should abide by the rules there.
“This SOP was conducted, streamlined by NPA, NSC and many agencies, launched in 2020 by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, but somehow it is not effective because there is nobody to own it.
“There is no leadership in that programme, so recently, the Vice President appointed NSC as the lead agency.
“And our role is not to do the SOP of anybody but to coordinate, to supervise and see that all these things are being done so that our ports are efficient, so that our ports are not corrupt,’’ he said.
According to the NSC boss, Nigeria is ranked very poor on the Corruption Perception Index, which is not ideal for a giant of Africa.
“We want an efficient port, reason being that we are in competition with the West and Central African region.
“We want all the cargoes to come to Nigeria first, before they are distributed to other countries but now the reverse is the case.
“So, we have to clean up our ports and one of the things we have which concerns your authority/services is the port health,’’ he said.
In his response, the director of port health services assured the NSC of the services support in every way possible, especially to ensure reduction in the Corruption Perception Index.
On turnaround time, Okatubo said the time agreed on the manual was sufficient but appealed that it should not be strictly followed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines which must be adhered to.
“The time you mentioned is very okay by us but in this season of COVID-19, there are certain port health activities, we are supposed to carry out, particularly for any ship that is coming in for the first time.
`So, for this period I want to appeal to you, let’s not follow that strictly because for now, there are certain countries we are very much interested in, Brazil, South Africa and India.
“It is sad to understand our officers were seen carrying out some infractions and if such comes to us, we are going to deal with it following public service rules and that has been made known to them.
“On penalties for infraction, it is something we don’t have for now but we will be having a workshop next week where that will be sorted after which I will make the penalties known to you.
“I want to assure you that port health is solidly behind you. We are with you and will do everything to support you to reduce the corruption perception index of the ports,’’ Okatubo added.