Bello Koko : Transforming Nigerian Ports through Reconstruction, Digitalization

By Shola Fadeyi

Bello Koko : Transforming Nigerian Ports through Reconstruction, Digitalization
Koko Bello, MD, NPA

The need to ensure that the Nigerian Seaports  become more efficient , offer more quality services to port users as well  as make it possible for Nigeria to  take up its natural position as a maritime hub ,for countries in  West and  Central Africa has been the major focus of the current management, of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), headed by Muhammed Bello  Koko.

Trans-shipment

Little wonder that through the kick off ,of commercial operations, by the Lekki Deep Seaport  and the various reforms that have been engendered by the current NPA management, he has ensured that some countries in the West and Central African sub region  are set to start using Nigerian seaports , particularly Lekki Port, as a transshipment base for their imports.

Modernisation

Consequently, the achievements, which the management has recorded so far in the area of its quest for  the total rehabilitation or reconstruction  and automation of the Nigerian Ports, have been due to the great  emphasis which Bello Koko has placed on the transformation of the operation s of the Ports , since he became the Acting   Managing Director of the  NPA, in May 2021 .

This has been in the realm of the total rehabilitation and upgrade of the Ports facilities and  the improvement in the digitalization  of their processes, that require automation,  so that the Nigerian ports can become revolutionized   and comparable with others in the advanced maritime nations.

Infrastructure Upgrade

However, for  the Ports in Nigeria , the need  for the total upgrade of their facilities , and the automation of their processes and operations , became more Germaine , when it is realized that almost all their infrastructure , such as the Quay Apron  have been overdue for  reconstruction, because they have existed for  over 70  years , beyond the about 45- 50  years  lifespan of  such facilities.

In the list of the Ports ,which  most of the infrastructure, such as the Quays   have decayed  and requires reconstruction ,  include the Lagos Seaports, of Apapa and Tin Can , Port Harcourt and Calabar Ports , while some of the facilities  of even the relatively new Onne Ports also needed to be salvaged. The fact is  that the Quays can no longer withstand the remedial works being carried out on them .

$800m Loan

Thus, it is in  his quest to achieve the type of seaports , which infrastructure will be standard and modern and which operations would be highly information  technology (ICT) driven , that the NPA   management  resolved that  it requires a  total sum of  $800 million to fund  the total rehabilitation and automation  of some of the Ports.

The fund is to be used specifically for the reconstruction   and rehabilitation of the infrastructure of the Tin Can , berths 4 to 14 in  Apapa, Calabar , Onne Ports ,the Warri Port Jetties, rehabilitation of the Escravos breakwaters,  as well as the upgrade of the digitalization of the processes and operations of the seaports.

  Upgrade  of  Infrastructure

 The management is planning to reconstruct the  quays  to ensure that they are safe for usage,and for them to be able to withstand   the planned  deepening  of the  existing channel draft in some of the Ports , including those in Lagos and others.

At a time , the management was  cut between securing the fund for the project through a loan from any of the  foreign multilateral  lending institutions or  using part of the NPA revenue for  the work , a development , which would however reduce its contributions to the CRF, but the former Mohammadu Buhari’s Administration  opted for the loan option .

AFREXIM

This is because while  the Port Act permits  the NPA to use up to 50 per cent  of its revenue  for the rehabilitation of its operations,  the   Fiscal Responsibility Act and Finance Act do not however allow it to spend more than 80 per cent  , while  its financial contribution to the CRF will decline if it has to use part of its revenue for the project .This largely informed   government’s lack of  nod for the Authority to  self finance the project.

Consequently, the  international lending institutions that were considered include the French Development Agency(AFD), African  Development Bank(AfDB), European Investment Bank(EIB), among others, but the NPA management  seemed to have  opted for the  African Export- Import Bank(AFREXIM)  with , which it has been in discussion and very hopeful  to secure the loan

Moratorium

 The idea is that   the NPA will borrow money for a  period of about 10 years, with three years moratorium, meaning that  provisions that would be made for the  payment of that loan,  would make the repayment to kick off,  in either 2024 or 2025.

However, as the loan is being awaited to finance the total rehabilitation and digitalization projects, the management has been providing   vital facilities and equipment, required for the provision of improved services to port users ,as well as carry out some rehabilitation works,  in the seaports under the NPA’s control in the West and Eastern parts of the country.

Lagos Seaports

 In Lagos, it has  completed  the projects on the   modernization of Control Towers at Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port as well as inaugurated the project ; installed   over 180  Marine Fenders on all Quays Authority Wide for safe berthing; Installation of Buoys at Ijegun/Kirikiri water channel and  licensing and Upgrading of Pilots across the four Pilotage District.

Purchase of Harbour Crafts

 The management has likewise acquired many  Harbour Crafts (Tugboats, Pilot Cutters) . For instance , as part of its enhancement of the capacity and efficiency  of  the Lekki Deep Seaport,  and the Ports in Lagos , the management just procured state of the art  80 Ton Bollard Pull Tugboats to complement its existing  fleet of tugs.

Patrol Boats, Truck Parks

It also purchased  Patrol Boats, licensed  additional  truck parks , a development that has  increased the  capacity of truck parks servicing the Lagos Ports while it licensed   10 Export Processing Terminals , thus  facilitating  exports at  the Nigerian Sea Ports as most  of the terminals are already fully operational.

Monitoring of E Truck Call Up System

It recently provided   additional 24  motor cycles  thus aiding the effective monitoring of the Electronic Truck -Call Up operations at Apapa/TCIPC/Ijora axis and contributing to easing  free flow of traffic. Several  new  patrol boats and vehicles for the patrol of  the ports and their sea sides, to check attacks by criminals  on vessels  at berths  and for the patrol of the waterways around the  Ports environment , were also made available.

Eastern Ports

With vital things necessary for effective port operation lacking,  the NPA management  has achieved a lot in this area. They include; the survey and Mapping of the Fairway Buoy up to Warri-Sapele-Koko Ports to the prescribed standards of the UKHO Charts; increase Container holding capacity at Rivers Port arising from conversion of unused space within PTOL Terminal into stacking area;

Infrastructure

The NPA management has upgraded the  infrastructure at Terminal ‘B’, Berth 7 and 8, Onne Port Complex based on Messrs WACT Nigeria Limited proposal for investment exceeding $110 million over a period of two years and  completed  the construction of 6,000 metric tonnes Bitumen Tank in Rivers Port Complex .

This has gone ahead to improve the company’s bitumen storage capacity , ease its  operations and  impacted on the infrastructural development of the South-South. The Authority has also   granted approval  for the completion of Road Network for the integration of Berth 9,10, &11 at Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne Port, thus boosting the Port operations, while it has installed  86  Buoys for Warri and Calabar Pilotage Districts.

Escravos Breakwaters

The  Bello Koko’s management is also set to award the  contract for rehabilitation Escravos breakwaters  sequel to the completion of consultancy services for the shore protection and rehabilitation of the  breakwaters by Royal Haskoning.This is when the facility has been  left to rot for several years.

Rationale for Automation

But  as it concerns the  full automation of the ports operations in the country , the current management has since its inception adopted  deliberate measures of undertaking  investments , with a view  to creating , a fully digital ecosystem in all the  port locations by 2025.

This is hinged on its conviction that a  digitalised port helps in making better informed operational decisions, increases efficiency, improves collaboration amongst stakeholders, and lower port costs as well as  assist  to meet the ever increasing customer expectations in a timely manner.

Port Community System

This is why the Bello Koko- led management has already gone deep into  the process of  deploying at the Ports,  before the end of this 2023 ,  what is called the Ports Community System(PCS), which is an electronic platform , that will link all the stakeholders in the Port system for purpose of communication and enhancement of delivery and clearing of goods.

 The  International Maritime Organisation (IMO)  , which is the Consultant to the NPA  ,has paid the  fees to the technical  consultant on the project  for  the first and second phases, as it offered to do, while the project is set to enter the third stage.

Maritime Stakeholders

Already, in the first and second stages of the project , the NPA  has been able to get  the   stakeholders in the maritime industry, from the shipping lines to the freight forwarders, terminal operators, users of the ports, Standards Organisation of Nigeria(SON), among others to deliberate with the   technical consultant  with a view to bringing them all to the Platform.

Consequently,  the consultant  has studied  what each one of the aforementioned  agencies  has in place in terms of IT deployment and automation, while in the next stage , which is the third stage , it will  do an analysis of what is needed to be able to deploy the PCS.

National Single Window

Invariably, the plan of the NPA management is for the  PCS to  serve as a catalyst for the National Single Window, which is a Platform that is superior to the PCS and which  enables trade facilitation and speeds up the processes of documentation for importers and exporters .

The plan to introduce the National Single Window has  been in the pipeline for about 20  years now, while funding and the Political Will by the political administrations ,  to approve it , has so far stalled the implementation.

 Though the Buhari – led administration showed some  serious commitment to the deployment of the national single window with the setting up of a  committee , headed by the vice president, with the  Minister of Finance, the Comptroller-General of Customs, and the minister of transportation  as members, the fact is that the project  is yet to see the light of the day.

Five Years Port ICT  Plan

However , beyond , the  deployment of the PCS, the authority  has been  focusing  on the smartness level of the port, rather than the size of the port in order to optimise productivity and meet the expectations of port users.

This is why ,  on its implementation of  the  five-year plan for the  attainment of a fully digitalized port system in Nigeria, it  had deployed a portfolio of systems and infrastructure towards the actualization  of its ICT objectives.

These include Oracle Enterprise Business Suite for financial and human resources planning; Billing/Revenue and Invoice Management System (RIMS) to fast-track billing processing; Customer Portal/electronic Ship Entry Notice (eSEN)/Manifest Upload for shipping traffic management.

Others are Hyperion Budgeting for management of annual budget; Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence System (3Ci) for maritime domain awareness, management of vessel calls; truck call up and gate access control for the control and schedule of trucks to the ports as well as manage truck traffic around the ports corridors  particularly in the Lagos Ports.

Before the existence of the current management ,  a lot of work had gone into the smart port transformation agenda of the authority, aimed at the enthronement of paperless, time-saving and cost-efficient port operations, but the Bello Koko ‘s leadership should be lauded  for the improvement it has effected in this area.

MOU

It is also commendable that  the management has signed a  Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for data digitalization and exchange for effective integration of Ports statistics with National Database and upgrading of Website and Daily Shipping Position Portal.

Conclusion

Granted  that the Bello Koko – led management has so far demonstrated  high level of  administrative competence  and prudency in the management of the affairs of the NPA, and considering that the  transformation of the Ports are key on its agenda, it is expected that it would ensure that the expected loan  would be  secured and  judiciously used .

This, if done would  make  the infrastructure of the  nation’s seaports  to be in good condition , enhance their  operations and processes , particularly with the expected full automation, thus making it possible for the  Ports  Nigeria currently has , to serve as effective feeders for the Lekki Deep Seaport , and thereby , make Nigeria a true hub in West and Central Africa,

Shola Fadeyi Is The Publisher Marine and Economy Magazine/ Online and MD, Simofad Communications Ltd

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