How Data-Driven Compliance To SOP Can Foster Effective, Efficient Maritime Sector

By Babajide Okeowo

How Data-Driven Compliance To SOP Can Foster Effective, Efficient Maritime Sector

With annual losses recorded in the maritime sector running into an estimated $7bn, and other myriads of challenges facing the sector, data-driven compliance to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been identified as the solution to these challenges.

To this effect, stakeholders from the Maritime sector converged at the 4th Edition of the Compliance Roundtable organized by the Center for Business Integrity (CBi) and the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) to deliberate on a virile, viable and sustainable maritime sector that will be driven by data-driven compliance measurement to SOP.

The stakeholders drawn from the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Port Standing Task Team (PSTT), Marine Police and Maritime Police to mention a few.

Setting the tone for the day, Co-Founder/CEO of CBi Nigeria, Mr Soji Apampa pointed out that efficiency is the most important factor in port operations, adding that the gathering and processing of data and information will effectively help in achieving the set objectives for the creation of ports.

“We know that in our ports, the biggest issue is efficiency.  Yes, it’s good to have effective regulations and so on, but without efficiency, it’s all lost.  So, efficiency is the key thing to know if we’re effective or we’re still cutting corners.

If we’re effective but there’s still corruption, it’s not good enough.  What we’re looking for is effective and efficient ports, in the whole value chain, inside the ports, out of the ports.  That is what we’re looking for.  And for that to happen, we have to follow Standard Operating Procedures.  We have to follow the timelines that are laid down.

But the question is, how well are we complying?  And do we have evidence of such compliance?  Do we have a systematic way that we’ve put in place to track compliance and ensure that it is taking place?

Giving an overview of the progress made so far in adhering to SOP, Vivek Menon, Associate Director of MACN, noted that the maritime sector’s transformation towards data-driven compliance is a complete necessity.

He emphasized that the culture of data-driven compliance to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), and government agencies partnering with the private sector can create an operating environment fostered with trust.  It reduces the risk of corruption and malpractice and very importantly encourages fair competition

“There are many, many benefits of this evidence-based compliance to SOP.  First, implementing an evidence-based compliance function within agencies enhances three things; transparency, accountability, and progress.  These three things are very important for efficient and effective businesses.

Secondly, by analyzing data,  we can identify and mitigate compliance risk proactively with the integrity of the operations that we do. 

Number three, evidence-based compliance encourages fair competition.  We all want to see fair competition which will in turn enhance efficiency and resource optimization to streamline processes. 

Finally, but not least, data or evidence is crucial in tracking progress. Data is very crucial in tracking progress to set clear benchmarks and assess the impact of collaborative compliance initiatives.  Therefore, it is the role of the government and the respective agencies to set the standards and drive robust and sustainable compliance.  This will not only contribute to the institutionalization of the progress that we all seek but also set an example for the international maritime sector and further contribute to what we all call the Nigerian miracle” he stated.  

Addressing the issue, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) pointed out that there is a need for data-informed decision-making for sustainable port reform and strengthened compliance arrangements in the maritime sector.

“Over the course of our previous three discussions, we have focused on key areas that are instrumental in realizing our vision of operational efficiency, integrity, and a higher level of business excellence within the Maritime Sector. 

We have worked tirelessly to establish compliance functions, institutionalize operational efficiency, and consolidate the gains we have made thus far. Today, we gather once again to delve into a critical aspect of our collective efforts: the evidence of data-driven compliance.

In this era of rapid technological advancement, data has become the lifeblood of progress and innovation. It has the power to transform industries and revolutionize the way we conduct business. Our Maritime Sector is no exception. By harnessing the power of data, we can unlock valuable insights, make informed decisions, and drive sustainable port reform. It is through this data-informed decision-making approach that we can strengthen our compliance arrangements and propel our sector to new heights.

We recognize that compliance is not an abstract concept but rather an objective that can be measured, monitored, and improved through the strategic utilization of data. Data-driven compliance provides us with the means to identify areas of weakness, mitigate risks, and enhance our overall operational efficiency. It empowers us to proactively address challenges and ensure that our sector operates in a manner that is transparent, accountable, and aligned with international best practices.

As we embark on this journey towards a data-driven Maritime Sector, we must acknowledge the crucial role of collaboration and stakeholder engagement. It is only through a collective effort that we can build robust data systems, establish effective monitoring mechanisms, and foster a culture of integrity. I implore each and every one of you to actively participate in this discussion, share your insights, and contribute your expertise. Together, we can create an ecosystem that supports the generation, analysis, and utilization of data for the betterment of our sector” Jime, represented by the National Coordinator of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT), Mr Moses Fadipe stated.

Also highlighting the importance of data-driven compliance to SOP, Professor Olatunde Babawale Provost, Anti-Corruption Academy Of Nigeria (ACAN) stated that data-gathering, analysis and response are key to achieving SOP compliance, transparency and accountability at Nigeria’s Ports.

He lamented that despite their importance, Nigerian ports have often struggled with issues related to Standard Operating Procedure compliance, transparency and accountability.

“These issues have been a longstanding concern and have had adverse effects on various aspects of port operations, including efficiency, productivity and overall performance.

To address these challenges, a data-driven approach that emphasizes data gathering, analysis, and response has emerged as a key strategy in achieving SOP compliance and improving transparency and accountability at Nigerian ports.

Gathering useful data is the foundation of any effective response strategy. It allows port authorities and stakeholders to collect comprehensive and accurate information about port operations, processes, and performance. Data allows organizations to establish baselines, benchmarks, and goals to keep moving forward.

It enables them to track and review the health of the various processes and essential systems they have put in place.

Undoubtedly, data gathering and subsequent analysis and response play a crucial role in the achievement of SOP compliance, transparency, and accountability at Nigerian ports.

Such data includes relevant statistics as vessel arrivals and departures, cargo handling processes, documentation procedures and compliance with regulatory requirements.

By collecting and analysing data on port operations, it is possible to identify areas where procedures are not being followed, where there is a lack of transparency, or where there is a need for greater accountability. This information can then be used to take corrective action and improve port operations.

A well-crafted SOP offers clear direction and instruction that minimizes deviations at different times using different personnel. The SOPs should be user-friendly and describe the processes in the sequential manner in which they are intended to occur, thus leading to a logical flow of events. Data-Gathering, Analysis and Response Data play an important role when governments and businesses work on strategically aligning themselves to benefit from challenges and disruptions” he said.

Adding to the discussion, Magdalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) pointed out that the gains of the previous discussions have led to the reduction of incidents of corruption in the areas of vessel clearance.

“Implementation of resolutions derived from the series of national discussions, the incidences of corrupt-related demands in the areas of vessel clearance have been reduced to the barest minimum, while other users are able to demand, track, and ensure greater compliance with statutory cooperation procedures.

It is worthy of note that there is no better time than now to delve into using data-driven compliance to achieve a maritime sector fit-for-purpose” Mr Babatunde Sule, Director of Maritime Services, Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, who represented Dr Ajani enthused.

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