A Single Window links individual seaports and all supply chain actors. This unique platform automates data and knowledge real-time sharing and allows better interaction management within the network.
The proposed Nigeria Single Window Trade Portal is a cross-government website that opens a new era for trade facilitation by offering a single portal for trade actors, both Nigerian and international, to access a full range of resources and standardized services from different Nigerian government agencies.
It is akin to an open electronic platform that connects individual existing systems and databases of distinct companies and organizations. It enables a secure and intelligent operational data exchange and consolidation within the port network.
Clearly, the port community involves public and private sector players. In this divide are users of port services, namely: shipping lines, shipping agents, freight forwarders and other logistics specialists, other transport services providers and their respective teams, inland terminal operators, warehouses managers, shippers, and cargo owners, all of who operate in the long chain. These players send information on cargo destined for the ports; in this case Nigeria ports.
The Single Window also entails that shipping lines’ e-booking of containers or space for general and bulk cargo, monitoring of physical movements of containers or goods, e-manifest data submission, release of carrier Delivery Order and tracking of cargo status for importers or check ocean vessel schedules for exporters
For the agencies operating the port system, the arrangement entails e-settlement of all bills: handling costs, logistics fees, demurrage charges, and seamless release of Terminal Delivery Order.
For many years, Nigerian maritime industry stakeholders have called for Single Window as a platform for government agencies to interface on matters regarding importation. This has however remained a dream.
Even though their prayers for a Single Window remained unanswered, at a point, some players started calling for a Port Community System (PCS). There is little or no difference between the two. It is just a matter of details.
Recently, this newspaper found out that a significant revenue is lost annually as a result of lack of a Single Window System in the nation’s maritime sector. Some other sources have put the losses at much higher than N100Billion. The system has remained elusive due to inter-agency rivalry and protectionism.
In the absence of this unifying platform, importers and clearing agents are forced to contend with challenges in the cargo delivery chain, a development which causes staggering demurrage costs and inconveniences.
We recall that, in 2019, the Federal Government gave approval for the setting up of the Steering Committee to be chaired by the vice president for the design and implementation of a National Single Window.
While justifying it, the government said the single window will enable better efficiency of port operations and also increase government revenue.
And after many years of paying lip service, Federal Government agencies under the auspices of the then- Federal Ministry of Transportation came out in 2022 to give their support to the establishment a National Single Window regime.
Since then, there has been no action by these agencies to collectively activate this desire. Rather, they have been pursuing individual agenda towards their own system of profiling cargoes arriving at Nigerian seaports.
Surprisingly, some of these agencies have created separate platform and given it different names, but serving the same purpose of profiling and keeping tab on imports. This is even as the industry yearns for a better way of doing things.
We are appalled by the open display of rivalry between NCS, NIMASA, NPA and NSC, as each agency operates its own devices in its own ‘exclusive zone’. This division and protectionism have denied the nation’s economy of the desired benefit.
On the other side of the divide, are personnel of government agencies who receive information pertaining to cargoes from the stakeholders identified above. They are employees of state actors.
The collectivity of the players identified above are those who the Single Window is expected to connect and in the process engender a tidier and more responsible port system, where players are traceable and are made to account for their actions or any infractions.
It is sad that, at the moment the cargo importation and clearance procedure in Nigeria is lacking coordination.
So, when the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service; Mr Adewale Adeniyi came up recently with an assurance that the Single Window platform will be implemented this year, we heaved a sigh of relief.
The assurance is about the best pointer to the possibility of realizing the dream of a single window. This is because the driver is the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the nation’s economy; Mr Olawale Edun.
The same assurance has been given by the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Mohammed Bello Koko.
But as the nation’s maritime sector’s decision makers continue to foot-drag, the Nigerian economy continues to lose the huge benefits inherent in adoption of a Single Window System.
Each time we think of the huge benefits accruable to a port system that is governed by orderliness, transparency and accountability, we think of the much-touted ease of doing business. A unified system of profiling and interconnectivity which the Single Window represents, is the answer
There is no doubt that the Nigerian port system is riddled with corruption and all manners of illegalities, and the only way all these infractions can be eliminated is by adopting a Unifoed System, which will out an end to the empires of corruption that the various stakeholders have built around themselves.