By Frank Odinukaeze
The advancement of technology and the growing need for fast and reliable service delivery has made the physical handling of cargo by labour less attractive,and increasingly decreasing.
This was the submission of the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime,while presenting a paper titled :”The Role Of Technology In Facilitating Inland Dry Port(IDPs) Operations In Nigeria”,last week at the Annual General Meeting ( AGM) of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers(LOMEP) held at Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) Topo ,Badagry ,Lagos .
Represented by Mr. Nanble, a Deputy Director and his Special Assistant, Jime who gave a long historical background of Inland Dry Port in Nigeria, noted that the dry port concept is not new in Nigeria.
He said in the late 80s and early 90s,the Elder Dempster Shipping Agency in partnership with National Insurance corporation of Nigeria(NICON), established two container depots in Kano and Kaduna named ,Inland Container Nigeria Limited(ICNL), mainly for the purpose of movement of goods from Lagos seaport to their clients in the hinterland. This, according to him was however discontinued for various reasons including perceived abuses.
Jime noted that the process of cargo handling has shifted. According to him, in the past what was once labour intensive activities are now almost totally dependent upon the application of advanced equipment and technology.
“Technology is revolutionizing the ports including the inland dry ports ,introducing remote control cranes ,self- driving trucks and other innovative systems to speed up loading and unloading of cargoes has become necessary’ he said.
He said today’s smart ports and terminals are adopting new technologies- remote operations, autonomous systems, and integrated information and communication platforms – to better track and monitor cargo and expedite deliveries, warehousing, and Customs. The goal is to increase efficiency, productivity and enhance consignee experience.
His words, “Shipping industry actors in order to improve business efficiency had realized that they must keep up with the digital world to remain competitive. As an industry that is flooded with large amounts of data, there is a lot of potential to transform the entire shipping industry and supply chain through technology”.
He said the Council being the port economic regulator has been in the vanguard of digitization of port automation to ensure seamless and efficient service delivery in the sector.
He said Kaduna Inland Dry Port is the only dry port currently in operation in the country and has automated some of her operations to ensure efficiency in cargo handling and delivery processes. According to him, some of the areas that are being technologically driven in the Kaduna dry port include: Automated gate system, traffic control management, port surveillance and security. Other aspects that could be technologically driven includes: Inland cargo tracking system, container yard and space management, the cargo examination bay, successful implementation of single window system etc.
He noted that the benefits of technology are immense. With technology, workers can communicate instantly and everyone and all activities are thus connected.
Traffic outside of the port can even be detected, so that trucks know when and how to coordinate their arrival. A typical example is the electronic call up system
He said port digitalization also improves overall port security. Port security officers can see all port events and port activity.
“For efficient operationalization of the Inland Dry Ports , container tracking system must be given high priority among operational computer operations in the ports. The importance of information technology and its role in improving the operational systems in cargo handling in the inland Dry Port must be taken seriously.
“The wave of digitization has been building within the maritime and shipping industry for a number of years. Now,with the COVID-19 pandemic undermining just how important data and technology are for understanding supply chain transparency and predictability, it is clear that digitization is a priority for the entire supply chain management, “he said.
Giving update on the Inland Dry Port project,Jime,noted that like every new concept, the implementation of the project had some teething challenges which affected the project implementation cycle in all the locations.
He said some of the challenges of these projects were similar, while that of the Borno State was peculiar and attributable to the pronounced insurgency in parts of the state
He said despite the challenges that have slowed down the process, recently and precisely on the 5th of August 2022, the Dala Inland Dry Port was designated as port of origin and final destination by the Minister of Transportation.
He noted that the project is 95 per cent completed and will be commissioned for commencement of operations in 2022. Likewise the Funtua project is about 95 per cent completed and will be commissioned later in the year