…The importance of inland dry ports to economic development cannot be overemphasised. The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, says a functional rail system is critical to the success of dry ports. He advises governors to invest in dry ports to create jobs and decongest Lagos ports…
What plans does the Nigerian Shippers’ Council have for the maritime industry?
We have automation and seamless transport programmes. We want the maritime and the transport sectors to make appropriate contributions to the economy. We want the maritime sector to generate wealth; we want it to create massive employment; we want it to assist greatly in the diversification efforts of the Federal Government.
There is no sector that can assist in the diversification of the economy more than maritime. We want to assist Nigerians to own and operate ships. We want to change the carriage of our crude oil from free on board (FoB) to where Nigerians will carry the crude. We are looking at efficiency in our ports. We are looking at deep sea ports and a seamless transport system. In the next two years, transport would make appropriate contributions, in employment and generation of revenue, and we are going to have modern infrastructure because it is transport that drives the economy.
What roles does the Council play for terminal operators, shipping companies and others?
We consider the terminals and shipping companies as our critical partners. Ours is to provide the atmosphere where they can operate and make profit, when they don’t make profit then it becomes our failure as the Shippers’ Council
We are the umpire, we are neutral. Sometimes, we criticise the government for not providing the environment for them to operate. It is important that we guarantee their investment because it would translate to the contribution of the transport sector to the GDP in terms of new infrastructure. If you go to the port now, they are not as they were 20 years ago; we are also considering the employment content of what they can offer to our people. Now we are gearing the ports to be competitive in export, we are opening some inland ports; all these are economic activities that have multiplier effects and profound impact on the economies of these locations where they are sited. I can imagine that about five to six industries would spring up in Kaduna because of the dry port. If you translate this into employment, distribution of wealth, infrastructure, you will see that the economy would gain a boost. The same thing in Jos.
We should forget about trivial issues and begin to talk about economic issues, two shipping companies closed shop in Japan sometimes ago, what are the implication? The other day, there was a breach on the APMT systems and the next day we were already there to look at their operations to see how they are coping, we also negotiated that it should not translate into demurrage, this is the role to play because the world is global.
What do you think should be done to tackle Apapa traffic gridlock?
The situation in Apapa is really a very sad situation. It was a mistake to have only one mode of transport linking the ports. Ports are supposed to be linked with many modes of transport. Especially rail, which carries the bulk of the cargo and that is the consequence we are having. Here we depend on the road alone and which is the problem we are having. There is no way we can continue with only one mode without its problem. We should have pipe lines, we should have the rail, the road and I think that is why the Federal Government has made it a law that all ports must be linked with rail. And that includes the dry ports. There should be some interconnectivity and integration of infrastructure.
You don’t build a river port without considering how to link it with the sea port, with the dry port and the airport. All these things should be linked and the Nigerian Shippers Council is providing that role of achieving inter- modalism. Supposed you alight from the International Airport in Ikeja, you need to get another means of transport to the local airport. Modern ways of transportation is to have a seamless transportation system in operation; from one mode to the other. When one brings cargo from the sea ports, they either go by rail or the barges for appropriate transfer from one mode to the other. And that is what we are doing with the Truck Transit Parks and the dry ports.
Should tank farms be removed from port area to achieve 24-hour operation?
The question is not about moving the tank farms, but the mode of transporting petroleum products, the pipeline is a mode of transport, if the tank farms have pipelines which would pump outside Lagos so that the tankers would stay there and collect their products from there; the thing is that we have a unimodel connection to the port and this is by road mostly. Meanwhile access to the port should be multi modal; it should be by road and mostly by rail, inland waterways and by pipelines, which is why pipelines are considered as a mode of transport. However, we have the solution now, the International Finance Corporation (IFC ) which is the World Bank did a study for Nigerian Shipper’ Council on management of traffic on Lagos port corridor. What was found out was that 5000 trailers and tankers are always on the road, meanwhile what is needed is only 1000. The project is being done with the NPA where we are going to have modern traffic management, electronic gates, parking bays, staging areas so that only trucks that have business to do at the ports are allowed in, it would be electronic and you cannot even have access if you are not invited. This is already within the procurement process, it is going to be advertised and when it is done, we would solve the problem of traffic in Apapa. I hope this would also be duplicated where we have proposed ports in Lekki and Badagry.
How far has the Council gone with the execution of Kaduna Inland Dry Port project,?
We have good news to tell the world. We thank the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) for its commitment. The Service has listened to the admonishment of Mr President. It has helped in many ways to boost the operationalisation of the Kaduna Dry Port. It has put operators of the dry port on its system and has also hooked it to the operations of the Kaduna Dry Port. Customs has also issued a station to Kaduna, which means it is a Port of Origin and port of discharge. That is extremely significant. The presence of Customs there now, as you see, means it is a Customs port. Last week, we were discussing with many institutions to have an office there. Agencies such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and so on. The volumes of trade have increased tremendously right now. In fact, they are doing about five containers per week, especially of export goods. Apart from the Customs, the shipping companies are ready to issue the bill of laden and that will make the transfer of cargoes very easy. The sea ports are not transit point, the cargoes are destined for Kaduna Dry Port. Kaduna Dry Port is a complete port in all sense of the world.
What is the relationship between the dry port and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)?
The CBN has listed the Kaduna Dry Port in the Form ‘M’ for transactions. This is good. It was done by the CBN about few weeks ago. This is to tell you that things are happening in Kaduna.
What constraints do you have?
The only constraint we have is the railway. The whole essence of a dry port rests solely on the railway. Specifically, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has allocated 20 wagons to Kaduna. However, it is the lack of the locomotives now that is worrisome. But we had meetings with the NRC last week. We have had series of meetings with them, and they are struggling to see that these locomotives are made available. If we have the locomotives and the 20 wagons in Kaduna, you will see that the volume of business at the port would increase geometrically. The Nigerian Shippers Council is also talking with NEXIM Bank because there are certain infrastructures that need to be provided for Kaduna Dry Port especially the refrigerated warehouses.
And we need a consolidated centre, a place where there would be some industries. An industrial park will assist for packaging and adding value to the agricultural products before export. So, I think within three months all our challenges would be met. But right now we are happy that it started like this.
What are the operators doing to attract cargo?
The promoter of the Kaduna Dry Port which are Inland Container Limited, are opening offices in China, London and some other places so that they can canvass directly for cargoes to be consigned to Kaduna. You can imagine the level of activities that will come up at the port. Right now, importers, agents and banks have started moving to Kaduna, applying to open offices. By the time the operation starts, we would see the effect of the see port economy being replicated in Kaduna.
What are the prospects of the port?
There are very very good prospects for the country; they are sources of diversification of our economy. Export is very important. We would earn foreign exchange as part of what we need to move the country forward. We cannot be import dependent economy. We need to be exporting goods to other countries. Nigeria is so blessed. We have 925 square kilometers of land. What we need to do is to concentrate on export. Nigeria is so blessed with a large square kilometers of arable land for agriculture revolution. In Nigeria, we need agriculture and rail revolution. These are the two things that will change dramatically and profoundly the fortunes of this country so that we can export our goods.
Apart from Kaduna, which other states are you looking at?
We are talking about Plateau State and that of Jos has reached a very advanced stage. Very soon, they will come on stream. The rail side is what is left. But the conces-sionaires of Jos, Duncan Maritime, is talking with the NRC so that they can start operation. What is important is the support of the state government. State governments must support the establishment of the dry ports. And we are happy to announce that we have got tremendous support from the Kaduna State government. Also, I must mention Plateau State government. Katsina and Abia states too. They are all pulling resources together to see that the dry ports are established in their states. The Kano State government has also shown tremendous interest. By the time we have all these dry ports, they will not only be for export centres, they will also be receiving goods and decongest the Lagos ports. On the transit cargo, you can imagine people in many places such as Republic of Niger, Funtua, Kano bringing their goods to Kaduna and to the Eastern flank of the country. If there is dry port in Abia State, it will take care of the Eastern corridor and people there will just be for to Abia instead of coming to Lagos to clear their cargo.
What are the benefits of dry port to states and what is your advice to other states that are yet to key into the initiative?
State governments should show interest in the establishment of the dry port in their states because it opens up the economy. It will help the state government in revenue generation and it will help them in employment generation. For instance, we are talking about 2000 direct jobs and 3000 indirect jobs in Kaduna dry port within the first two years. These are tremendous opportunities for the state governments to support the dry port.
What is the stake of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in the project?
The NPA is a very important partner. There must be a transition, synergy between the sea ports and the dry ports. They are complementing each other and not rivals. This is very important. NPA has good interest in the operation of dry ports. What the NPA must do at sea port as a land Lord is to make sure that there is a dedicated space for transit cargoes. And I sure we will make the transition between the sea ports and dry ports extremely small.
What is the role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the project?
The role of NIMASA is also very essential. The dynamic nature of transportation makes it necessary for these agencies to contribute to the success of dry port. NIMASA has a big role to play in terms of security, its supervision of the sea port has now extended to the dry ports. And there would be a time when the Shippers Council would bring all the agencies together when we start operating fully, to know their responsibilities. But now, we have a meeting where all the shipping companies, terminal operators, NRC and many other agencies and NIMASA, we all came together a month a go, where we studied all the issues.
Aside customers and Shippers Council, which other agencies are at the Kaduna dry port?
We have SON, we are talking with NAFDAC and we are also talking with plant quarantine. They have to look at the standard. Some of the agencies may not be present at the port, they can do their regulatory exercise outside the port.
Why are the differences between dry ports and the sea ports?
The operation of the dry port must be a radical departure from what we have in the sea ports. We are conscious of not making the mistakes the seaport made in terms cumbersome procedure and congestion. The dry ports are technologically driven. They must be a automated. They have to operate 24 hours. Cargoes must be cleared within the shortest time possible. And there would not be congestion to and from the dry ports. This we told the government of Kaduna. They are building the roads; they are providing security, providing electricity, water and many other things we have asked which the state government has done.
What are the promoters doing in terms of profit scanners?
The Customs and the operators are thinking of deploying scanners to the dry port and easy accessibility. And the investment in the dry port has been very very overwhelming
How are you going to protect the containers from being diverted?
What we are planning to do is also to track all containers destined for the dry ports. We have to track them so that we don’t see cargo diversion. Customs is rightly worried about the possibility of diversion. But we are producing a technology that would allow Customs to monitor the movement of each and every container so that there would never be no diversion of containers destined for the inland container ports so that Customs can collect their correct duty and other levies for the Federal Government.
How far have you gone with the Truck Transit Parks?
In about two weeks from now, we would have finished the procurement process. We will call for expression of interest. We have had deluge of investors. Right now, there is $3.5billion made available to be deployed to the Tuck Transit Parks which will create 128,500 jobs between 2018 and 2020. This is the contribution of the Truck Transit Parks to the economy. For us at the Nigerian Shippers Council, this is just the beginning. We are going to look for investment; we are going to bridge the infrastructure gap with modern infrastructure.
Which agency is providing the money?
It is a private sector firm. The private sector is leading the project under a PPP arrangement in terms of the dry ports and also, in terms of the Truck Transit Parks.
What is the Council doing to partner with other agencies to realise the Executive Order issued by the government?
We are partnering with the NPA and others. They have already done a lot of work, but what we studied was that there is need for a lot of infrastructure, security, attitudinal change and there is need for other institutions like the Customs to key into the directive. In terms of infrastructure, we need port lighting, the roads and security, there is no reason our ports should not work 24 hours, the terminals are ready, the customs are also ready, they have now devise shifting, so we need to talk to the freight forwarders so that they would go and clear, so everybody would be at the port without excuse, and we also need to talk to the security agents to ensure safe passage of the cargoes. If the airports can work 24 hours, why won’t Nigerian ports work 24 hours? So the ministry of transportation is coordination this, the NPA is looking at issues at the port, while shippers council is looking at the overall issues. Twenty four hours port operations have come to stay at our ports and it is achievable. It is already on. More importantly, the ports would be connected with the port master plan, the railway and the Inland waterways, NIWA is also working, we are also working with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to look into the issues of the tank farms.