By Innocent Orok
The Nigerian ports infrastructure has undergone significant improvements in recent years, modernising projects, policy reforms and investments in human capital even as sustainability has laid a solid foundation for future growth.
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr Mohammad Bello-Koko disclosed this on Thursday, in Lagos at the 2023 AMJON Conference and Awards, organized by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria.:The theme for the conference was ” Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy Towards Viable transborder trade”
Speaking on the topic “Providing functional ports infrastructure for efficient and effective Transborder Trade: the journey so far”, the NPA MD who was represented at the event by Mr Charles Okaga, Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex Apapa, disclosed that while challenges remain, NPA is committed to continuous improvement of the ports infrastructure in order to position Nigerian ports at a competitive edge in the global market.
According to him, continued collaboration between the NPA, government, private sector, and local communities will be crucial to unlock the full potential of Nigeria’s maritime sector and drive economic prosperity.
Bello-Koko who lamented that operators in the port system are yet to be fully connected digitally, however said that NPA has upscale its operation through automation and digitalization of its processes.
According to him, the processes that have been automated include truck traffic management system e-call up, port -ship reception and billing payment with the Revenue Invoicing and Management System (RIMS), deployment of electronic manifest and ship entry notice documentation processes, operation of Oracle Financials and Oracle HR. While procurement of software for harbour automation is ongoing, the MD said.
Bello-koko further said that, the automation facilities for integration; include Radar; Automatic Identification System (AIS); VHF Communication; Meteorological and Tidal Sensor, Surveillance Cameras and VTMS.
He lamented the challenges of carrying out speedy maintenance of port access roads due to the responsibility vested on the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing, with no direct responsibilities to the ports. Other challenges, he said include conflicting legislations with sister agencies, inadequate funding and need for further infrastructural development.
According to him the Port Authority has created new businesses which created job opportunities for Nigerians, such as the Barge Operations services which apart from reducing pressure on the roads has grown into a N2 billion annual generation business, both from direct investment and accompanying externalities.
He disclosed that licensing of additional Truck Parks to increase capacity of Truck Parks servicing the Lagos Ports, has brought about significant reduction in truck turn-around time due to successful implementation of the e-call up system.The Ports Authority is also enforcing minimum safety standards on trucks which stipulate that all trucks accessing the ports are inspected, certified and issued safety assurance clearance.
The NPA boss also noted the establishment of Export Processing Terminals which are located in Lagos and Ogun states. The terminals, according to him, currently serve as Cargo consolidation points, Export documentation points, Quality control and Customs authentication and sealing.
Bello-Koko disclosed that the Ports Authority has put in place coordination of shipment of export cargo to ensure timely exportation, through equipment of terminals with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with terminal operators and shipping companies.
There is also installation of weighbridges at EPTs to ensure compliance with IMO instrument of Verified Gross mass (VGM) of export cargo and issuance of accompanying weight certificate.
He said, “Since the EPTs, the port of Apapa and Tin Can Island have witnessed an upsurge in export volumes and 65 per cent reduction in the number of accidents recorded, arising from improved standards of trucks operating within the port premises”. He further disclosed that there is standardization of operational procedures for different activities such as barging, private jetties, pilotage, vessel berthing/sailing etc.