.Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council; Mr Hassan Bello (L) presenting a copy of the recently-launched Nigerian Port Process Manual to Otunba Kunle Folarin, Chairman of Port Consultative Council (PCC) and Barrister Osuala Nwagbara, Chairman Legal Committee of Port Consultative Council during a visit by the PCC to the Shippers Council last Friday.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC); Mr Hassan Bello has underscored the essence of the newly-introduced Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) and also expressed optimism that the new system will reduce cargo dwell time in Nigerian ports to about seven days in the first quarter of 2021.
He explained during an exclusive chat with our correspondent in Lagos last week that, the new port process manual is simply the operationalization of the Standard Operations Procedure (SOP) of government agencies as well as all activities of service providers, in the port.
According to him, there is need for synchronization of the activities of these bodies, some of which are doing nothing, but are just adding to the time it takes for cargoes to exit the port.
He lamented that the port environment was ‘too dirty’, with too many people doing nothing, even as he added that the environment does not encourage efficiency and aids interference and corruption.
He said that the challenge of developing the NPPM was thrown at the Shippers Council because, it is the economic regulator. “We don’t offer any service, but we are the superintendent of these processes, we can simplify and then assess what people are doing, harmonise these SOPs, know what people are doing at specific time, we know who, when, where and why things are done”. “With this, we would have fulfilled the easy obligations of international best practices”, he stated.
According to the Shippers’ Council boss, once the NPPM takes-off and all service providers key-in, there will be reduction of endemic corruption in the port, it will also increase efficiency and transparency.
He said: “One area that we need to concentrate on is the environment, the environment around the port is dirty with everybody coming to the port without any business there, don’t even talk about the kiosk, we are talking about the kiosk people who sell all manners of things. The port is not a good sight, we need to clean the port of illegal squatters and illegal activities, and give it a semblance of seriousness that it is a port”
“Secondly, the process of cargo clearance must be streamlined, already the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been working with the Nigeria Customs Service and others who are involved in cargo clearance to ensure that there is fast clearance of cargo and more transparency”, he added.
He also stated that the Nigeria Customs Service is working towards installing scanners in the ports, and that once that is done, and with what the NPPM is working on, cargo dwell time will drastically reduce.
According to him, the target is to achieve seven days’ dwell time in Nigerian ports.
He said that, currently there is about “22 days’ cargo dwell time in Nigeria, 4 days’ dwell time in Lome; Togo, seven days in Cotonou port. Our aim is seven days’ dwell time in Nigeria maybe within the first quarter of this year, that is the imperative”.
He added that, apart from the port process manual, there is need to sped up and fully embrace digitalisation of port operations. To this end, he disclosed that terminal operators, being integral to efficient port operations are being appraise to ascertain their level of digitalisation.
He said the Shippers’ Council has been silently tasking the terminal operators on digitalisation of their operations.
According to Bello, “there is a terminal for instance that score 98 per cent on digitalisation, because we are rating them, and there is another that scored 24 per cent before, but now they are rated 42 per cent, we apply sanctions on any terminal that is not digitalized. It’s the same thing with shipping companies, and we expect freight forwarders to also fall in line, they are already doing that, the same thing with the banks”
“We have no choice but to do that, our ports must be contact-less, transactions must be conducted electronically and without physical presence at the port, which breeds so much corruption”, he stressed.
He disclosed that the target is to hit about 82 percent digitalisation in 2021, from the 65 per cent that was recorded last year. He added that more attention is being focused on terminal operators some of which still do a combination of electronic and manual operations.