The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Hassan Bello has challenged stakeholders in the Maritime industry to embrace virtual ports operation as part of measures to fast track development in the sector and the larger economy.
Bello while Speaking during an interactive session on Webinar tagged: “Covid-19 And The Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons And The Way forward” described the present Port operations as cumbersome.
According to him, the ports can operate optimally 24 hours like the airport if adequate measures are put in place to make it services less of human contact and paperless.
Integration of Stakeholders
He said in order to achieve the above, there was need for an integration of all stakeholders in the maritime sector such as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Shippers Council, Customs Service, importers, terminal operators, agents, among others.
Bello also decried the physical and monotonous means of examinations at the ports, that stakeholders must brainstorm on ensuring that the ports develop an inter modal transport system.
The NSC boss seized the opportunity to commend the APM Terminals whom in conjunction with the council launched a rail evacuation services earlier this week.
He also said the congestion currently being experienced at the ports is not good for businesses as the multiplier effects have adversely affected all stakeholders in the sector as operators are losing huge resources day in day out.
“The council is working round the clock to ensure ease of doing business for stakeholders in the sector, adding that adequate automation of ports services and employment of multi modal means of evacuation of cargoes will enable ease of doing business for operators and investors in the sector,” he said.
On Covid-19 challenges and the way forward, Bello said: “From the onset, we realised that It was important to strike a balance between ports operations, services and safety.
“Some of the challenges we experienced at the initial stage includes; banks not opening to provide financial services within the ports, lack of means of transportation within and outside the ports for essential services.
“There were so many negative impacts as big markets like the Onitsha, Aba markets were shut hence problems of where goods stuck at the ports would be moved to.
“Restriction on interstate movement was also another down time for businesses in the Port as goods were stuck in the ports leading to loss of huge resources for both shippers and owners”.
Also speaking at the event, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman explained that NPA has “given a waiver for movement of vessels that are meant for servicing and dry-docking in Nigeria”.
Bala Usman said: “This has enabled vessel owners to competitively dry-dock and service their craft in Nigeria. This is very important for us to retain and build that sector.
“We have done our bit in promoting that sector and I will call on the association to bring any other area where Government can help and intervene in keeping that Business in Nigeria and develop necessary skills”.
Efforts in Curtailing
Speaking on what NPA is doing to curtail Covid-19, the NPA boss said: “Some of the submissions that we’ve had from the Presidential Task Force revolve round having vessels wait for 14 days from any country that has above a thousand infections.
“We have been engaging with the Presidential Task Force to review that because we are all within the sub-region. Everywhere indeed have pass those numbers and we cannot keep saying vessels coming from Tema or any neighbouring port need to stay at anchorage for an additional 14 days. This I must say is a big concern that has been on going with the shipping companies.
Bala Usman who spoke on sundry issues said: “One of the things that we have learnt and understood is the need to prioritise and ensure that the ports remains open, prioritise the need to provide the necessary developments, recognise that you must learn to accommodate some challenges attributable to process, attributed to certain equipment required to conduct the necessary operations.
“I think these are some of the things we have learnt and we will continue to learn everyday and because we have different types of guidelines coming up on a daily basis, I think we all need to remain on our toes.
“The(World Health Organisation)can bring out a position today and another one tomorrow and recognising that this is global virus and understanding that everybody and indeed scientists are struggling to grasp what it is.
“We need to remain alert, remain very conscious and also be dynamic enough to go on with the flow however it goes” Bala Usman added.
Source: Voice of Nigeria