2017  Train: Re-branding Nigerian Ports Authority

2017  Train: Re-branding Nigerian Ports Authority For the ports industry stakeholders, the year, 2017, holds a lot of promises. This is considering the plan by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to reposition the ports in line with global standards. With the ban on importation of vehicles and rice through the land borders, the nation’s seaports are expected to experience both ship and cargo traffic. For the stakeholders, this indeed calls for improvement on ports infrastructure. Apparently aware of this expectation, the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Usman declared recently that the authority was prepared to improve on ports efficiency . Describing the ports as a “critical artery of the economy” during a chat with newsmen, Usman assured that the management will ensure that the operators deliver port services at the standards of doing business in the 21st century. Under the landlord port model, the NPA has its own statutory role different from the concessionaires. Some of the responsibilities include ownership and administration, development of port operation infrastructure, leasing and concession of port infrastructure, setting benchmark for tariff structure, nautical/harbor operations, hydrographical survey, maintenance dredging, navigational facilities, quay wall and aprons. The terminal operators are however preoccupied with the task of providing equipment for cargo handling, including provision of spaces for the goods until their owners come to take delivery. While the organisation tries to fulfill its obligation, it also acts as a technical regulator and expected to compel the service providers to provide services that will enhance service delivery. For an efficient service delivery in the ports, both NPA and the terminal operators have to be fully committed in infrastructure development.

Poor Road Network
One of the major problems that stakeholders in the ports encounter is the poor state of the roads. Stakeholders have raised alarm over this development to no avail. However, NPA is currently carrying out maintenance work on most of the access roads across the country. Usman told newsmen recently that there are two contractors working on the access roads leading to Apapa and Tin Can Island ports. She also said that apart from this, the roads leading to the nation’s ports has been captured by the 2017 budget. She disclosed that the Ministry of Works has prepared the framework for the rebuilding of the Apapa-Tin Can road in this year budget. She added that a Holding Bay for trucks will completed this year, adding that it will address the issue of trucks littering on the roads leading to the ports.
According to her, when completed, no truck will be allowed on the port road unless it has been called to pick cargo.
Infrastructure Development
The NPA has a lot of infrastructures to rehabilitate this year. This is in keeping with its statutory obligations in the area of dredging, maritime services, navigational facilities and quay wall and aprons. It would be recalled that a Ministerial Committee had charged the Authority about three years ago to intensify efforts in this regard as the landlord. In order not to be found wanting, the Authority has been carrying out regular maintenance dredging in the nation’s waters. This has helped in deepening the draught for bigger vessels to come into the ports.
Eastern Ports
The authority had during a visit to the Eastern ports by members of the Senate Committee on Maritime led by Senator Ahmed Sani identified critical infrastructural projects in the Eastern ports requiring urgent rehabilitation for ease of trade facilitation. NPA’s General Manager, Eastern Ports, Alhaji Abdullahi Goje explained that the port facilities which were 103 years need to be rehabilitated.
While identifying areas where the NPA needs to carry out rehabilitation, Abdullahi blamed the terminal operators for failing to invest in developing infrastructures as contained in the ports concession agreement. He identified Eastern Ports Headquarters of the NPA in Port Harcourt as requiring urgent rehabilitation to a befitting status as captured in this year’s budget.
He also identified berths 5,6,7 and 8 concessioned to BUA Terminal in Port Harcourt as equally requiring urgent rehabilitation. Other areas include Abonema Marine Police jetty, Port Harcourt, perimeter fencing and rehabilitation of the Bonny Radio/Signal Station, capital and regular maintenance dredging of the three pilotage districts. Goje also said installation of modern electronics system in all the Port locations to discourage unnecessary and unwanted movements to and from the terminals and jetties was very important. The NPA will also have to acquire additional operational tug boat, bringing the number two .
The NPA is currently making frantic efforts to revive the comatose Calabar port. This will be through capital dredging of the port to be able to accommodate ocean liners. The Calabar port dredging has been lingering over the years unexecuted.
Usman on a visit to the port described it as very economically useful because of it strategic location. Noting that the seaport is close to the North East, she said that with the revival of the seaport, mineral deposits in the North would be exported abroad through the port. She disclosed that efforts were being made to dredge the seaport to accommodate bigger vessels, adding that the management held a meeting with the Calabar Channel management on the issue. Already, the organisation has called for the hydrographic survey carried out in the past. She said that there was the critical need to resolve the issue to make the draught deeper. It was gathered that the resolve to ensure that the NPA fulfills its statutory obligation was based on earlier complaints by the terminal operators two years ago about lack of dredging of the berths/channels of their terminals in line with the advertised depth. The terminal operators told a Ministerial committee that this was affecting bigger vessels from coming into the ports. The Board Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Adesoye, during a recent visit to the Calabar port with members, said dredging of the port was the only way bigger vessels can patronize the seaport. Adesoye said, ‘’It will be one of the greatest incentives for the port if the channel is navigable as it will attract bigger vessels and investors who are ready to do business with us and after the dredging has been done”.
Perhaps in keeping with modern trade trends, NPA has done well on its automation programme. All its transactions have been electronic. This has made things easier for the consumers, particularly the terminal operators and shipping companies. The Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, had recently commended the leadership of the authority for contributing immensely in facilitating trade in the country through automation. Bello who spoke glowingly in favour of the agencies shortly before end of last year said its various automation programmes have made it easy for ports stakeholders. The automation programmes, he said, have made goods clearance at the ports easier and faster, a development he said, has addressed the nightmare which shippers suffered in the past.
Deep Seaports
One of the efforts of the management in port development is the plan to establish three deep seaports in the country. The deep seaports are located in Lekki, Badagry and Akwa Ibom. Usman said NPA is promoting the projects for the private investors to key into. She said the three projects would be of immense benefits to the nation’s economy. Both Lekki and Badagry deep seaports when established will address the issue of congestion on the Apapa ports. The Ibom port will on the other hand capture the eastern market.
Although, the management of NPA is determined to improve on the ports efficiency by carrying out infrastructure rehabilitation, development projects, among others, its biggest challenge would be the state of economic recession which has also affected the ports industry. Even with rice and vehicles importation now limited to the seaports, many believe that the difficulty in sourcing foreign exchange for importation has remained the main issue. Other challenges include the huge debts being owed the organisation by terminal operators. The debt being owed by terminal operators is put at N191. 80 bn, out of which only N500m was recovered as at December last year. Some of the debts have been as old as 10 years. The debts were from lease agreements and tenancy payments that have accrued over the years.


By Ugwoke Francis

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