The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on Tuesday unveiled far-reaching initiatives it is pursuing to reposition the nation’s maritime industry, particularly its shipping and haulage components, on the path of sustainable growth and improve the sector’s contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Executive secretary of the Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, who stated this yesterday during a parley with some journalists in Abuja, said that some of the initiatives derived from the lessons from the nationwide lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barr. Bello, who recalled the sundry efforts the Council made during the lockdown to keep the ports functional, said one of the major agenda of the Council was to digitalise the ports operations such that all operators will be providing 24 hours services daily. According to him, in order to ensure functionality of the maritime sector during the lockdown, the Council spearheaded the creation of a Task Team in collaboration with all the regulatory and relevant stakeholders.
He explained: “We created a Maritime Task Team. The team is comprised of all relevant stakeholders in the maritime sector, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Navy, the Customs, the Police, the Port Consultative Forum, the Council of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN) as well as the unions. “We were able to build synergy, which is very important if we are to succeed. We meet almost every week at Shippers Council. So Shippers Council in a way became the rallying point. Whatever problem that arose during that time, we sit down and work out the solution together”, Bello added.
Reflecting on the Council’s experiences from such collaborative efforts to sustain maritime sector operations amid the pandemic, the Executive Secretary said with this synergy and everybody working together, the Council found out that Nigerian ports could run 24 hours. He expressed optimism that with an active support of the Nigerian Customs Service and other agencies that have proved to be good partners in the collective approach to optimise the operations of the ports, the 24 hour ports operation is feasible. Barr. Bello expatiated: “If we have 24 hours operation, we would be more efficient and be able to compete favourably with other world class ports across the globe. “Another thing that happened during the period is that we were able to demonstrate that we can have multi modal evacuation and delivery of cargo from the port because at that time, we were able to make the rail work, during the lockdown period, there were one or two train services at the port, there were also the barges and the road. “If one trip by a train can clear virtually everything at the port, the implication is that we may not have need for all these trucks, secondly, the cost will come down because the railways are going to give the truckers a run for their money,” he added. He said currently the cargo dwell time at the port stood at 20 days but that the target is to bring it down to seven days.