By Kenneth Jukpor
The operators of one of the world’s largest seaports, Port of Miami, have pointed out several factors mitigating against the growth of ports and maritime activities in Nigeria.
The Vice Chairman of the Board of Miami-Dade County Commissioners, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said that, “the Nigerian government has to make the decision to provide incentives because it was the only way to guarantee the nation’s ports become larger.”
“You have to be able to give incentives to the big companies to come in. You can’t always look to them to come and give you incentives. You have to provide them the opportunities and enabling environment to come to your port and stay. If you can’t guarantee these things then they are not coming.” Audrey told MMS Plus newspaper.
Audrey who was speaking at a business meeting with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) when she led a delegation from Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Speaking further on the factors that led to Miami-Dade’s emergence as a trade hub, she said, “Our close control of import and export has seen the Miami Port grow tremendously. We ensure that people feel secure when they ship cargoes to the Miami Port. We ensure that the merchandize doesn’t have to stay at the port for a long time and we also ensure that port users don’t have to meet different individuals just to get their items shipped.”
“Everyone knows that they would be treated the same way. There are no extra fees or charges because as a trade zone, we don’t want port users to bother about the inconvenience of arbitrary charges. We want people to patronize the port of Miami with the knowledge that no bribe or unnecessary levy will be placed on them. We also take responsibility when they don’t receive their merchandize, the Miami authorities would have to pay for the loss.” she added.
She also emphasized that the objective of the visit was to strengthen the relationship between Miami-Dade county and Nigeria as well as strengthening the ties between the Port of Miami and the Nigerian Ports.
Meanwhile the Port Director, Port of Miami, Juan Kuryla admonished the Nigerian government to develop clear strategies and a port masterplan in order to transform the nation’s port sector.
Kuryla noted that seven years ago the Port of Miami expressed similar challenges like Nigeria, especially in terms of congestion, lack of berthing space and traffic congestion. He commended the Miami-Dade County leadership for its commitment and strategic decisions such as entering into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement which transformed the fortunes of the Miami Port.
Sharing thoughts with MMS Plus on how to transform Nigerian ports, Kuryla said, “The first step for Nigeria is to have a clear strategy on where the port aims to be, the next thing is to engage the local community, leaders, elected officials as well as the private sector operators that function at the ports”
“The strategy must involve all stakeholders and not leave anybody out. All port users, host community and the government would play important roles. Remember, the port users bring the cargo or render services at the port. So the most important thing is to have a clear strategy and a port masterplan” he said.
While he revealed that the Miami Port intends to break the 5million cruise passenger record, he also added that the Miami port is funded 100% by the private sector.
He also stressed that the port related bills should be passed speedily to provide the legal framework for the Nigerian port industry to thrive.
In her opening remarks, the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman said that the Nigerian government appreciates the contribution of the United States to the nation’s economic and trade agenda.
“It is particularly gratifying for me as Managing Director of NPA that you have included a visit to Nigeria in your busy schedule and that you made Nigeria your first port call – to see first-hand the trade and investment opportunities in Nigeria”, Hadiza said.
The Managing Director of NPA who was represented by the Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services; Prof Idris Abubakar, noted that the trade forum was an important avenue to highlight the capabilities of the Nigerian Port system and the diversity of trade and investment opportunities inherent in the nation that will benefit the United States and Port of Miami.
Hadiza recalled that in 2001, NPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Port of Miami to use its normal process to promote the ease of doing business as sister ports, noting that the essence of the meeting was to engage and foster bilateral trade, commercial ties, maritime services and technical exchanges between both ports.
She noted that the new relationship between NPA and Port of Miami will further expand bilateral trade opportunities and enhance the scope of Nigeria and the USA to work together closely to promote a mutually beneficial trade framework.
“As at 2015, Nigeria was USA’s 60th largest goods trading partner with $5.3billion in total. Goods exported totalled $3.4 billion; goods imported totalled $1.9billion. The US goods trade surplus with Nigeria was $1.5. Currently, exports to Nigeria from the USA include wheat, vehicles, machinery, kerosene, lubricating oils, jet fuel, civilian aircraft and plastics. US imports from Nigeria include crude oil cocoa cashew nuts and animal feed” she stated.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Port of Miami, Florid United States of America have expressed readiness to partner in order to facilitate trade and attract investments to both countries.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Ovie Omo-Agege assured that the lawmakers are ensuring laws are put in place to attract foreign investors and protect their investments.
He said that the Senate has moved to re-engineer the maritime sector by passing the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority (NPHA) Bill to promote responsible and globally competitive shipping operations in Nigeria.
Omo Agege assured that the Ports and Harbours bill guarantees the security and enabling environment required for businesses to succeed in the maritime industry.
“The new Ports and Harbours bill encourages greater private sector participation in the maritime industry through sustainable infrastructural investment. It is an open invitation to smart and organized global maritime investors to come to Nigeria to harness great opportunities.” Omo-Agege said.