Amaechi laments delay over $195m maritime security contract
By Kenneth Jukpor
As part of efforts to make Nigerian ports more competitive and reduce the delays at the ports, the Federal Ministry of Transportation has assured that it would actualize a Single Window platform for port operations before the end of the year 2020.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi revealed this yesterday at the 3rd Maritime Stakeholders Interactive Forum in Lagos, where he revealed that he had told President Mohammadu Buhari that the Single Window and maritime security would form key areas of focus in his second stint as Minister.
Amaechi lamented that Nigeria is the only African nation without a Single Window, noting that he had felt embarrassed at regional Ministers conference where he has been unable to explain why Nigeria was yet to implement a Single Window.
“Maritime security and the Single Window projects are the two key issues and I have assured the government that by the end of 2020, we should have the Single Window at our maritime sector. On Tuesday, we got approval to complete the $5.3bn Ibadan to Kano rail project. We have also applied for funding to commence coastal rail for the Port-Harcourt to Warri segment.” Amaechi said.
He also expressed displeasure at the slow pace of the $195m maritime security contract awarded to an Israeli company, HSLI since 2017.
Although the Minister disclosed that he would be meeting with the company on Tuesday next week, he said he wasn’t satisfied with the contractor’s excuse that purchasing the equipment for the project was the reason for the delay.
“The contractor claimed that equipment meant for the project is not what you buy off the shelf, that to me is not enough reason for the delay in the take-off of the project. They (HSLI) said they have to fabricate the equipment and bring it down to Nigeria, but we are losing man-hours, human beings and business to insecurity on our waters.” he said.
Amaechi also seized the opportunity to commend the organizers of the Team Maritime Nigeria, a celebration to honour him at the end of his first stint as Transport Minister, however he alluded that he didn’t do much in maritime to deserve such elaborate celebration and encomiums by the stakeholders.
“In my first term as Minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the Heads of Agencies. This time around, that won’t be happening as I have instructed that the Honourable Minister of Transportation for State, Hon. Gbemi Saraki should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening there. I’ll only step in and come in hard when there is need to do so.” he said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Mr. Hassan Bello highlighted container cleaning charges as one of the components to be expunged from shipping lines charges, noting that the Council had been able to get the shipping companies streamline their sixteen charges to six.
He also stated that similar productive meetings with the Seaport Terminal Operators in Nigeria (STOAN) have held, as both parties have agreed to address the harsh operating atmosphere in Nigeria.
“The cost is driving cargoes out of the Nigerian ports. Shipping companies have about sixteen charges but we have agreed to reduce them to six and we have still not agreed on one. That’s with the shipping lines. We have also appealed to the Seaport Terminal Operators in Nigeria (STOAN). The operating atmosphere in Nigeria is very harsh and we have agreed on the need to address this”, Hassan said.
Adressing journalists after the event, the Minister of Transportation for State, Gbemisola Saraki promised to work on issues associated with cadets having sea-time in Nigeria.
“Don’t forget that I chaired the Senate Committee on Marine Transport for four years, so maritime is not new to me. I am just going to take my time because newer issues, like insecurity, have come onboard.
“We are going to look at the issues of cadets not getting sea-time. We are also going to look at the issues of ship registry and cargo tracking note. We are concerned about how many jobs the various initiatives in the maritime sector will create.” she added.