The Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello is at the front burner of innovative projects in modern ports infrastructural development as the top man of the Council that has been assigned the role of the ports regulator in Nigeria. In this week’s edition of Shippers’ Guide he takes you through the numerous projects the Council is promoting. Excerpts.
What are the projects currently embarked upon by the Council?
There are six approved locations for inland container depots or what we call dry ports, now this are ports in all ramifications but the only thing is that you don’t find water around them, they are ports because they are Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) ports, and that is very important, you can consign cargo from any international place, they are port of origin and port of destination.
What we want to do is to stop the perennial congestion at the sea ports. It we have this things operating we won’t have all these trucks in Apapa because if we have somebody from Funtua or Kano or Ibadan or Isi-Ala Ngwa where the ICDs are, he could have his cargo delivered there and customs can examine it there.
Every facility in the sea ports will be there and the economy of the sea port will also be replicated in these locations, so it is to drive our local economy. The ICDs are all gazette and the ICD of the NSC are at various stations, we have the sea ports we have the container freight stations, we have many applications for the ICDs from Kebbi from Osun and other states
There are reports in some quarters that the Council is not carrying the Customs along in its ports regulatory initiatives, how does the Council liaise with the Customs to this effect?
We have a technical committee set up and inaugurated by Customs, we are working together to see how best to rationalize it. The Kaduna bonded terminal has been gazette as the first dry port in Nigeria, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) official gazette has declared Kaduna inland port as port of origin and final destination for export and import of cargo. This is significant because the others have not been so declared because of some development and challenges that we have.
Another project that we have is the Truck Transit Park (TTP), which is a public rest area located off the high way. We are disturbed by primitive infrastructure, especially in transportation where truck tankers park indiscriminately on the shoulder of high ways. If you go to Ogere or Mararaba in, Jos, you will find all the trucks causing degradation of the environment and posing dangers to the society.
So, we are promoting TTP, which is off the high ways where lorries, truck or tankers can park, the drivers can have hotels where they can shower spend the night if they want, there will be petrol stations garages and all the modern amenities, we will have them in each of the TTP. This will also serve as a means of generating revenue. Land has been allocated by the Kogi State Government for the one in Lokoja.
The Kaduna State government has already advertised for interested people, that is, private bodies who want to promote the initiative, we have been to Enugu state and they have also allocated space for the existence of a TTP and I am sure this are very laudable projects which Nigerian customs will be glad to be a part of.
So we have the Potonovo creek in Lagos, the Ogere in ogun state, Onitsha in Anambra state, Mararaba Jos in plateau state, Jebba in Kaduna, kwara state, Ore in ondo state and Obolo Afo in Enugu state this are the proposed locations for the TTP.
How does the Council receive complaints from shippers?
One of the purpose for the establishment of port service support portals and one of the major functions of the council is to handle trade related complaints brought before it either by service users against service providers or otherwise, in pursuit of excellent service delivery, the Council is developing an on-line complaint and service support portal, on completion and when deployed, the portal will be an efficient platform for resolution of complaints arising from business to business transaction in Nigerian ports and also will help in tracking and managing services support requests.
Also, in a bid to encourage competition, improved efficiency, entrenched automation in our Nigerian ports and ensure that our ports become preferred destination for international maritime traffic, the Council is promoting the implementation of modern trade facilitation system by establishing a port community system and a national single window, the system will compile the activities of day to day trade transactions at the ports by providing real time trade and logistics information required for efficient import and export transit related transactions.
This is an important trade facilitation issue that the Customs will be happy to pursue. The national single window is a modern trade facilitation system that is supposed to serve as a medium where many of the ills in the ports system will be terminated.
With the assistance of the Customs we have established Border Information Centres, (BIC) these are projects carried out in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and West African Trade Hub, to give information to cross border traders on what they need to know to effectively carry out seamless trade. The Seme Border BIC has already been commissioned and is now in operation.
Efforts are ongoing for the establishment of more BICs in the following border posts like Sokoto, Bimin Kuka in Kastsina State, Bakinki Lawa, among other. Customs is providing us land to achieve this. This BICs have a way of formalizing informal trade. There is a lot of informal trade going on in these borders and government will not get revenue if it remains informal. So we provide information about what you can do with trading in other countries and formalize the trade.
What other projects is the Council promoting?
We have the Sea Link Project (SLP) which we do in collaboration with Nexim Bank, it will interest people to know that if you want to, for instance, export onions to Ethiopia you have to first take it to Spain, and then from Spain bring it to Ethiopia. There is not much trade between African countries by sea and that is very expensive and does not make any economic sense, so with Nexim, we are establishing SLPs.
Another of Shippers’ Council initiative is the Advanced Declaration or International Cargo Tracking Notes, (ICTN) the Federal Government has approved the implementation of the ICTN by the Council and ICTN also known as Advanced Cargo Declaration System (ACDS) is a global initiative to monitor and verify cargo and transit from the port of origin to the port of destination, it is a high technology tool that provides real time monitoring of security movement of vessels, allows real time generation of advanced information on cargo including time, origin, quantity and other shipment information.
It generates automatic information alerts from port of destination, it also enhances security and safety of ports and cargo, prevents under declaration of gross registered tonnage of ships, prevents under declaration and concealment of cargo and many other benefits, including simplification of cargo clearance procedures.
How will the CTN impact on the operations of the Customs?
Customs has endorsed the use of CTN. During a working relation with customs on under declaration in one of the seminars of 2013, we found out that 80 percent of cargo coming to Nigeria is under declared this is a serious tax evasion, so what can we do to stop this? There is no better transport document than the bill of laden but it does not correctly outline the cargo, like the cargo tracking note will because the bill of laden is said to contain but the CTN, however, will go into the details, even before the ships sails into Nigeria.
I am talking of advanced, we will receive the weight of the cargo, we know the destination of the cargo, we know the type of cargo that is coming and we share this information with Customs. It will help in the Customs assessment, classification and so many other things.
Since it is advanced all the parties who are part of receiving this important information will be glad and this will hasten faster cargo clearance procedures. It is not like the present situation, that it is when the vessel is at berth that Customs starts to run around manually and give wrong classification and valuations as alluded to. CTN is a very important instrument of trade facilitation we have, we have already gotten the endorsement of Customs and very soon when we get to the technical section, they will be part of the implementation. To administer the implementation is the NCS, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and NSC.
This will not only stop pilferages or leakages in the system, it will also boost the revenue generation of the government beyond expectation. If there is correct declaration, it will make the work of Customs much easier.