Full automation panacea to rising port costs, says Shippers Council
CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Nigerian Shippers Council, the nation’s economic regulator for the seaport industry has said that full automation of the port processes remains the only solution to the current increasing cost of doing business at the seaports.
Recall that Nigeria’s seaports have been rated the most expensive in the West and Central African Sub-region to operate in, especially in terms of clearing consignments, as it is believed that the cost of clearing a twenty equivalent units TEUs, of container in Nigeria is 10 times higher compared to other sister seaports, a development that makes them uncompetitive and fuels cargo diversion.
Executive Secretary/CEO of the council, Mr. Hassan Bello, who spoke at the third edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Maritime Conference held in Lagos, Friday, insisted that the current clamour by stakeholders for the reduction in the cost of operation at the ports may remain unrealisable until a common Single Window Platform is introduced and embraced by all.
The theme of this year’s event, which is an initiative of the Maritime Forum, University of Lagos and the SIFAX Group in honour of the Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO, SIFAX Group Dr Taiwo Afolabi, was “Port Cost and Ports Charges: A Recurring Decimal Under Port Reform Regime”.
Bello, who was represented by the Deputy Director Monitoring and Enforcement, Chief Cajethan Agu, insisted that until a port community Single Window Platform that will accommodate all stakeholders is introduced, the quest for the reduction in ports’ cost and charges would remain an illusion under the current manual system.
He also argued that in addition to reducing cost of operation, the single window platform would bring about a regime of efficiency by reducing human contact to the barest minimum, increase government revenue and by so doing, make the nation’s seaports more efficient and competitive with their peers in the region.
According to him, most of the seaports in West Africa have all adopted the full automation option by embracing the single window platform, which in turn has enhanced efficiency, boosted revenue for the government and reduced cost of doing business.
“For instance, in the Republic of Benin, the introduction of the single window platform led to a 39 per cent growth in government revenue, reduced cargo dwell time from over 40 days to less than 10 days.
“Full automation of the port systems through the single window platform remains the panacea to rising port costs and charges. Most ports in West and Central Africa are fully automated except those of Nigeria’s, so we all need to embrace the automation option to reduce cost, increase revenue and enhance port efficiency and competitiveness”, Bello said emphatically.
On calls by stakeholders that the port regulators and service providers should close ranks with a view to addressing the issue of rising cost and other myriads of problems plaguing the port industry, the NSC-boss noted that the terminal operators and shipping companies sued the council, which is at the Supreme Court, saying that no negotiations would be done until the matter is dispensed with.
He however pledged that the council as a regulator will continue to ensure fairness, equity and justice and would continue to protect the interest of all stakeholders including service providers and users of port services.