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We need banks to drive 24/7 port operations, cargo delivery–Russo

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By Otunba Bright

The Managing Director of Port and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML), Ascanio Russo, has said that 24/7 port operations and cargo delivery can only work until banks can receive Customs duty payments online seamlessly.

Russo,who  disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Lagos, said that banks should be able to receive payment of duty online in order to have seamless cargo delivery in the ports within 24 hours.

“On the aspect of 24/7 port operations and cargo delivery; it wouldn’t work until banks can receive Customs duty payments online seamlessly.

“Besides GTbank, no other bank can do an automatic payment of duties. So, after the banks close on Friday, people can’t make customs duty payment,” he explained.

However, he said other challenges affecting 24 hours port operations are insecurity and bad access roads at the nation’s seaports. He, therefore, called on the Government to address insecurity and bad access roads causing impediments to 24 hours port operations.

According to him, insecurity and deplorable port access roads are major obstacles why Nigeria has not been able to operate 24 hours port operations.

“For us at PTML, we provide 24- hour service a day, but insecurity has discouraged other agencies involved in cargo clearance to work at night. For instance,  freight forwarders cannot work at night over the fears of being attacked by armed robbers or exposed to other threat around the ports,” he said.

Conversely, he pleaded with the government to address the insecurity and take action on the construction of the port access roads in order to have seamless port operations in the country.

“We are already working 24 hours operations. We receive vessels all the time and are ready to deliver cargo even during the night but the challenge is insecurity. We need to address the issue of insecurity and congestion because clearing agents are not comfortable to work during the night because they don’t feel safe.

“The same thing goes for Customs officers and we cannot blame them because the area we operate can be volatile and no one will want to stay out late at night because when they leave, they may be attacked by armed robbers or any other threat which may arise.

“We also have challenges with the banks about paying duties online. Another challenge we are having in our terminal at Mile 2 is the congestion on the road.

” We can deliver over 1,000 cars a day because of the digital solution we offer but unfortunately the road is blocked. So the vehicles cannot get out of the terminal because there is no space on the road to receive them,” he said.

Russo said while the terminal and its parent company, Grimaldi Nigeria have adopted the use of technology to enhance its operation, some government agencies involved in cargo clearance are yet to key into full digitisation of their operations ,thus maintaining human contact at the port.

Said he: “We have digitalised everything which could have been digitalised and we would have digitised even more if not for certain practice with those we are interacting with as some of them are not digitalised.

“From arrival of the vessel to the delivery of the cargo basically our clients can do everything online. They don’t even need to come to the port. My dream is that one day, I will come to the office and I will not see all these crowd around the port.

“The reason why PTML has never experienced congestion is because we have the real solution, otherwise with the number of vehicles coming into this port terminal, there will be crazy congestion but because we have invested in digitisation and still investing there, we don’t have any congestion.”

Russo said the company has adopted the use of barges to receive export cargoes and move empty containers.

He said, “Because of this offdock terminal, we have been moving cargo in and out with our barges. We have been overwhelmed by request from customers to work with us because they know that with our solution, the export cargo can access the terminal without any delay. This is why last year; we were the first carrier of export containers.”

On empties, he said for every one container in PTML, there are always two to three containers going out, adding that the company has been moving its cargo by barges.

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