Dr. Zebulon Ikokhide is the President of the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers in Nigeria. In this chat, he educates you on the necessity of training for freight forwarders; the various types of training available and how to acquire them. He spells out the terms for the training and the consequences for those who fail to participate in the training. Enjoy the piece.
Why is it necessary for Freight Forwarders to be trained?
The essence of training is for you to be on top of the profession you are. The lawyers need to be trained for them to be fully aware of the different rules guiding their profession and carry them out well. Accountants too need training to be on top of their game. Therefore the Institute of Freight Forwarders feel that anybody who wants to practice the profession of shipping or freight forwarding needs to be trained towards that direction. Logistics is not something you do on your own without being aware of what it is all about. Training is very key to everything you do in terms of professionalism in one’s profession. Freight Forwarding actually is the key to shipping. You start with it and you end with it,that is why we advocate training for people in that profession. Freight forwarding itself is something that shipping cannot do without. And of course, there is no way an importer or shipper will carry his cargo from the point of origin to the point of destination without the involvement of a freight forwarder. The freight forwarder will be the first he will contact.
You will look for how to carry his cargo from point A to B; once you make your intention known, you talk to a freight forwarder, then freight forwarder will tell you what is involved in the type of cargo you as an importer wants to import. He is also going to tell you the type of cargo you as an importer wants to import. He is also going to tell you the type of transport you need to convey your cargo to its final destination. If it is a light cargo, he will advise to go by air, if they are heavy equipment he may likely advise you to go through the sea. With his knowledge of Geography, he should be able to tell you how far it is from one destination to another, that is why they need training to be able to do all these things. Somebody cannot just come from the village and become a freight forwarder without knowing what is obtained in the profession. Training is very essential in all spheres of life.
What are the different types of training that freight forwarders should undergo?
Freight forwarders need to be trained in the area of logistics, in the area of Geography, cargo throughput, shipping itself and the management of these professions. You need training in all these before you will know how to go about your profession. You need to know which type of ship you need to carry a particular cargo coming from a particular place. For example, in the Eastern part of the world like Singapore, you need to know the shipping lines that are available; these are the things you learn in freight forwarding training. When you come out from the training, you will be a very good business man especially in terms of documentation needed in these areas. You have cargos that are special somehow; if you learn about them you know which area that kind of cargo can come from. So you learn about Geography of the world and what is obtained from different locations of the world. For instance in New York, you have a lot of wheat grown there and you have to know the ship that brings such cargo to the country. The bulk of the wheat-based foods used in the country come from New York. This is where you have the farms. A freight forwarder really needs to learn all these things, that is the reason or essence of the training. You can also help your country by having the knowledge of these things. The training is very important especially in the light of recent developments in the world shipping business.
What are the courses offered in these trainings?
For example if you want to do a certificate course, it is a two-year course. What we are trying to do first now is for the Managers and Directors in the sector. We want to compress everything so that it can last for two weeks. We started it under CRFFN before where trainings are organized for the top men in the sector so that they can finish the syllabus within the required time. It is a crash program that lasts everyday of the week from 8 o’clock in the morning till 8 o’clock in the evening for a diploma course in freight forwarding management. So we have a lot of them, we are sending fliers that will incorporate all these. We are having training for business strategy and corporate governance and for chief executive in freight forwarding and logistics.
We feel that the managing directors and chief executives in the industry should attend. The courses are already prepared. We will do some here in Lagos and some others in Port Harcourt, and may be in Abuja. There is also Executive professional Diploma course in freight forwarding and supply chain management, we will be having that one also and chief executives and managing director would benefit from these. And then the general one is mandatory, professional development program for freight forwarders and logistics in the supply chain management. All freight forwarders, head of logistic desk, bank and allied institutions will be doing some documentation in custom procedures, courses for freight forwarders too. Documentation is the key to freight forwarding job. A lot of times, customs complain that freight forwarders do not handle their documentations properly; we want to actually teach them how to do this so that they don’t delay in the clearance process. The customs procedures courses will be organized here in Lagos, then Port Harcourt and may be Warri in conjunction with CRFFN, for the first time we will be having a freight forwarders’ conference or an annual stakeholders’ conference. It will bring freight forwarders together and some stakeholders from other countries will also be invited to attend. These are the things we are planning and of course we need funds in other to do this. That is why we are saying that government should help assist us to put freight forwarding business in the country on the international map.
How impactful could these courses be, considering the short period of time?
The courses will be given to people who are already in practice. It is just a way of reminding you what your work is and how to do it better. It is very good and will remind you of a lot of things that will help your business. Moreover, when you come out of those courses, you will now know why things are going wrong, why things are how they are. You will know how to handle and put things right in your profession. And of course in those areas that Customs complain about, you will now make them see the difference between someone who is trained and have the knowledge and someone who was not trained. It is a training all freight forwarders should acquire to be able to know what to do at every given time in their line of business. No matter how short they are, we need to also consider that these people have work they all attend to. So, we don’t need to take all their time in the training.
What is the basic requirement for a Freight Forwarder to qualify for this training?
First, you have to be a registered Freight Forwarder and for those of them who are coming into the profession newly, we have a specialized orientation course for them. You know we have accredited some institutions that need to train people. Some of the beginners can always go there to acquire the basic training on Freight Forwarding. After the training, they will come for certification exams. They need to register with those approved institutions, they will go through their courses and when they are through, they will come for certification exams with us. Just like anybody who wants to become an accountant today, he may finish his university education, but he needs to study again for professional certificate as a chartered accountant; you will not get that from the university. So the Freight Forwarders will be sent to these institutions, they will have to study, get their certificates there then come back to get certified by us.
Is there any sanction for any member who fails to participate in this training?
Yes, very soon, the enforcement unit of the CRFFN will start work. Every freight forwarder has to show some kind of identification to be able to practice. They have to be custom licensed before they will be allowed to practice. We are going to make arrangement with customs so that license will not be given to any freight forwarder without him being a registered member of CRFFN.
What is the cost of the training?
We are saying that it will be at no cost to freight forwarders but as at now, it is going to be less than N30, 000 but for the Managing Directors, it is from N60, 000 upwards.
Considering the large number of freight forwarders in the country, how do you plan to cover all of them with the training?
That is why I said that we will be doing it here in Lagos, in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Warri and we see that if there are people in a particular area large enough to constitute a class, we can also do the training there. We will also be available for big companies who will want to train their staff in some of the courses we offer. Moreover, talking of number, the number of freight forwarders that have registered with CRFFN is not even up to 2, 000. Although people are still updating themselves, they are not more than 2, 000 yet, they are not that much or large.