The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has challenged Nigerian ports to embrace round-the-clock operations as they have capacity to do so.
Executive Secretary of the Council, Barr Hassan Bello, who stated this yesterday during a parley with some journalists in Abuja, said that is one of the lessons from the nationwide lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barrister Bello, who used the meeting to recall efforts the council made during the lockdown to keep the ports functional, said, “We created a Maritime Task Team. The team is comprised of all relevant stakeholders in the maritime sector, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Navy, the Customs, the Police, the Port Consultative Forum, the Council of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN) as well as the unions.
“We were able to build synergy which is very important if we are to succeed.
“We meet almost every week at Shippers Council. So Shippers Council in a way became the rallying point. Whatever problem that arose during that time, we sit down and work out the solution together.”
He said with this synergy and everybody working together, “We found out that Nigerian ports could run 24 hours. We have to maintain that, the airports operate 24 hours, why can’t we?”
He said with an active support of the Nigerian Customs which has proven to be a good partner, the 24 -hour port operation is feasible.
According to him, “If we have 24 hours operation, we would be more efficient and be able to compete favourably with other world-class ports across the globe.
“Another thing that happened during the period is that we were able to demonstrate that we can have multi-modal evacuation and delivery of cargo from the port because at that time, we were able to make the rail work, during the lockdown period, there were one or two train services at the port, there were also the barges and the road.”
He said if these three modes of transportation are fully deployed, the ports will be more efficient.
“If one trip by a train can clear virtually everything at the port, the implication is that we may not have need for all these trucks, secondly, the cost will come down because the railways are going to give the truckers a run for their money,” he said.
He said currently, the cargo dwell time at the port is 20 days but that the target is to bring it down to seven days.
According to him, “If we have 24- hour service, with a digitalized port where there is little or no physical presence and multimodal transport, we would be able to reduce cargo dwell time to seven days.”
The Executive Secretary also hinted on the plan for the consolidation of freight forwarding companies in the Nigerian maritime space.
He said it is better to have a few strong freight forwarding companies than having millions that can barely pay for an office space.
While thanking the Federal Government for its support to the Nigerian maritime sector, Barrister Bello appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria to extend its intervention programme to the maritime sector
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