By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Hassan Bello has blamed the failure of 24hours port operations at Nigerian ports on lack of automation, adequate security and bad port access roads.
Bello stated this in Lagos on Wednesday when he took a tour of major port terminals including PTML Terminal, as well as Ports and Cargo Terminals at the Tin Can Island Port so as to assess their level of compliance and automation of their services.
Bello stated that banks were also one of the major cause of failure of 24hours port operations, even as he pleaded with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay special attention to the Nigerian maritime industry.
He added that most government agencies were not fully dedicated for 24hours running of the port as they lack adequate staff to be posted to be at the port.
Speaking, the port economic regulator boss said “The banking issue has been a problem, there is also the issue of security and the problem of all the government agencies having staff to be deployed for 24 hours and the shippers and their agents themselves”
“But if we have a digital port, it makes things easier. Nobody needs to come but the port will be operating 24 hours”
“The Central Bank of Nigeria which has been working and making intercession or intervention should also look at the port system and intervene which is very important.
“The Central Bank should focus on the maritime industry. We are pleading with Central Bank to look at that.
“Our exports, for example, are going on smoothly and now, access to the port is difficult and some of our terminals are not configured for export because we have been importing things for a very long time and we have become import-dependent economy.
“We cannot be import-dependent economy, we need to export and the Central Bank has put the basic things; the portal, the processes, they are doing well on that but we need a special focus.
Speaking further, Bello reiterated the need for synchronization of government agencies for efficiency in the port, saying it would minimise the problems in the port.
According to him, the success of the synergy and automation of the port hinges on the access to the port.
Bello warned the terminal operators not to increase their charges and tariffs without recourse to the Council as economic regulator of the ports.
He said that before charges can be reviewed, it has to be communicated to the Council who will in turn engage stakeholders before it can be ratified.
Also speaking, Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Ascanio Russo blamed the failure of 24hours port operations on insecurity.
Due to lack of security, Russo said Nigeria Customs officers and freight forwarders do not want to come to the port at night to take delivery of their cargoes.
“The clearing agents and Customs officers are not feeling safe and we cannot blame them. The area where we operate can be volatile and no one wants to stay late in the night when they know that when they leave, they may be attacked by armed robbers or any other threat may arise.”