. Samuel Babatunde is the Registrar of Ports and Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria (POTEMAN). In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus, he highlights the dynamics of human capacity building in the port and terminal industry, the challenges, as well as the prospects.
Port and Terminal operation is a field that requires skill and capacity. How has Port and Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria (POTEMAN) been able to develop the requisite level of human capacity for the industry?
We have done this in several ways this year. We have organized several trainings and workshops to further develop and enrich the capacity of the practitioners in the industry. In January, we organized “Basic Port and Terminal Operations Management” which was attended by several stakeholders including one of the indigenous operators; this is Ports and Cargo Handling Services. In February, we organized, “Advanced Port Operations and Management” in Ogun state and several industry stakeholders participated. We have also organized, “Basic Marine Survey and Cargo Inspection” to aid the Marine Survey and Cargo Inspection domain that will assist the port and terminal industry in the area of quality and quantity evaluation and assurance. We have done a lot to develop the human capacity in the Port and Terminal industry and we would continue because that is the essence of the Academy. Presently, we have a programme titled; 2016 Annual Young Port and Terminal Competition. All these are geared towards improving the standards in the port and terminal industry through capacity building for various practitioners in the industry.
POTEMAN is ten years old. How would you highlight the achievements, high-points as well as the challenges facing the Academy over the years?
When we came on-board as an indigenous capacity building organization, it wasn’t easy to penetrate the industry to convince the practitioners that we had the competence to develop human capacity in the sector.
Today, our challenges are many considering the change era sweeping the nation at the moment. We hope things get better soonest because the state of the economy is also having a ripple effect on us.
What is the membership strength of POTEMAN?
We have over 200 fellows at the moment but our membership strength is over 300 and they also include individuals from the aviation, land borders, railway sectors.
There are several bills before the Senate and they are crucial to transforming the port industry. Which of them would have a direct impact on the Academy?
In addition to the National Transport Commission bill, the other bill that the Academy would give the most support is the Port and Harbor bill. This is because at the moment the various port concessionaries that we have are still under the presidential fiat.
There is no legislation giving them the backing to operate. There should be a legislation that can give a potential investor the confidence to transact business. It is as a result of the inadequacies of that process that led the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) becoming the port economic regulator. In the concession agreement, it was only the landlord model that was studied. We also need to look at the role of an economic regulator to set the standards in terms of pricing, operational standards, etc. So, NSC has stepped in to play this role but there is no legislation that gives NSC these powers. It was just a proclamation or government fiat.
There are several academies dedicated to building capacity for the maritime industry, what distinguishes POTEMAN?
An academy is created to bridge reach the gap existing between the industry and the requisite human capacity. POTEMAN carries out the process of redefining the professionalism in the port and terminal industry. Prior to the port concession, NPA had a training school where capacity building and staff trainings were carried out. NPA also put several measures in place to ensure that staff meets the required standards. Immediately the ports were concessioned, it led to the death of the NPA training school and the question of which institution was saddled with the onus of training people for the industry arose.
Various professions have institutions for capacity building. In the Accounting profession for instance; you have the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Nigeria (ICAN), in the area of Management, you have the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), for Journalism, there is the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), etc. There was an urgent need for a capacity building institution in the port and terminal industry and POTEMAN came up as a private driven academy to fill this void. The essence of the Academy is to bridge the gap by training capacity to the optimum level for the port and terminal industry.
The port and terminal industry is segmented into about five areas which are: service delivery, operational, marketing, responsibility accounting and security aspects. These areas put together account for the performance evaluation of the port and terminal industry and POTEMAN builds capacity by developing modules for these areas and for various levels of employees.
People come into this industry from different backgrounds without having the rudimentary knowledge about the port and terminal. They don’t know the structure, trends and philosophy of the industry which would enable them fully understand the sector.
Lack of opportunities for seatime experience has become a major challenge for Nigerian cadets. How do you ensure that your students get placement in the ports or terminals?
A good number of our students are gainfully employed in several bonded terminals and the ports. The ideology of the academy is to build switchable employees such that they can easily adapt to work in a container terminal, port, truck parks, train stations, etc. There are various aspects of the port and terminal industry; however, we are also looking at the allied industries such as the Marine Survey and Cargo inspection which had been dominated by foreign organizations in the past.
Today, we have trained Nigerians to do these jobs and this led to the creation of two Marine Survey associations in the country. They are; Centre for Marine Surveyors in Nigeria and the Guild of Marine Surveyors in Nigeria.
We also look at government initiatives in areas like solving port congestion. The government introduced Bonded Terminal operations where people are licensed to carry goods under the Customs surveillance to bring it to the terminal for examination to reduce the workload at the ports. It wasn’t totally effective and the government also introduced off-dock terminals to solve the menace. Subsequently, the government is introducing Inland Container Depots (ICD) in the six geo-political zones in the country. This evolution in the sector underscores the need to train the people to function in the various operational aspects. POTEMAN is in the position for capacity building in the port and terminal industry for such a time as this and the spectrum of the Academy’s training cuts across the seaport, airport, land borders, bus and truck parks, train stations, bonded terminals, etc.