Maritime stakeholders have commended the   Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, over its vision in establishing dry port facilities across the six geo-political zones in the country popularly called Inland Container Depots ICDs, as well as its decision to promote truck parks which are expected to be built in some parts of major highways in the country.

While the ICD initiative is designed to bring shipping services to importers and exporters in the hinterland areas of the country as part of measures to reduce cost and make the conventional seaports transit areas, the truck parks are aimed at reducing the perennial gridlocks on port access roads thereby making them more efficient and competitive.

A frontline customs brokerage agent, Chief Chekwas Okoli , who spoke at a media briefing in Lagos recently, said both projects when fully operational, would enhance trade facilitate in the country and therefore boost Federal Government’s revenue in line with the economic diversification policy.

According to him, by establishing ICDs, the Council has taken shipping services nearer to the door steps of many Nigerians in different parts of the country, a development that would enhance efficiency and drastically reduce cost.

Okoli described ICDs as part of the continuation of the reform process in the port industry, adding that it will add value to the national economy.

”Let me state here that we have observed that a good number of the ICD concessionaires have shown some level of seriousness in recent time following the directive by the Council that they should show enough commitment in the dry ports projects or lose their licences”.

“In response to this directive, many of the concessionaires have therefore started developing their ICD sites, which is commendable and so in the next few months some of them would be looking forwards attaining Port of Origin status”, Okoli said.

He argued that in addition to creating jobs for the teeming youths of this country, the ICDs will also in particular boost the economies of the states and communities where they are located and the national economy in general.

Meanwhile, another clearing agent, Mr. Ikedi Okwosa, who spoke on these giant strides by the council, observed that the ICDs when fully functional, will end the nightmare experienced by shippers (importers and exporters), who have over the decades relied on Lagos and other ports for their cargos meant for different places in the country in the face of transport and logistics inadequacies.

He said: “The ICDs will end risks and losses that shippers in different parts of the country have faced over the years in the course of transporting their goods from far distances to their final destination. It is on record that many shippers have had to lose their goods due to accidents or armed robbery attacks while the goods are on transit”.

“But with the ICDs, the goods will simply to be conveyed through rail transportation to different parts of the country. We also appreciate the fact that the Federal Government has been working hard in revitalising the rail system, which is the only way the ICDs can function optimally”.

He also argued that the idea of setting up the truck parks is wonderful, as It will be a place of rest for drivers who have been on the road for hours especially when it is getting too late and would check carnage on the nation’s roads since the drivers stop and sleep before continuing their journeys the next day.

Okwosa however commended the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, for his efforts in revamping the rail sector, and therefore expressed optimism that within a short time, the country will be fully interconnected with rail transport.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, who has been speaking on the need to make the ICDs operational and efficient, had late last year warned ICD concessionaries to show more commitment in the development of the projects or have their operational licences revoked.

Bello also disclosed that officials of the Council would be sent out to monitor the progress on the ICDS, assured that only those who have met the required standards will be issued with Port of Origin certification.

“The Federal Government has an obligation to introduce consistence policies that will encourage private sector operators to perform. The concessionaires too have an obligation. Government is an enabler and will do everything possible to ensure that these projects come on stream but we also need to see some level of work to show some seriousness on the side of the concessionaires.

“However, the private sector must show some responsibility because now we have included in that concession agreement new time lines and we have to operate according them. Anywhere you want us to intervene for you to grow, do not hesitate to tell us but I am telling you now that we also want to see action and if we do not see action in line with the agreement, we will not hesitate at all to cancel any concession.”, Bell said emphatically.

He argued that the previous agreement was done without any regulatory framework, adding that plans are underway to send copies of the new agreement to all the concessionaires, with a view studying them and operating in tandem with the new guidelines.

The Council had in of the inadequacies of the old agreement approached the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission ICRC, in conjunction with which the new agreement was done to make it more agreeable, modern and in tune with the legal framework of public private partnership in the country.