Private investors needed to rebuild port infrastructure – Shippers Council boss

L-R: Captain Ibraheem Olugbade, Maritime Consultant; Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd), Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage and Logistics and Keynote speaker at the event; Dr. Taiwo Afolabi (MON), Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group; Former Managing Director, Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited and Mr. Rizwan Kadri, Managing Director, SAHCOL at the 2nd edition of the 2017 Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium sponsored by SIFAX Group.

By Gboyega Oni

Sole funding of infrastructural deficits in the Nigerian maritime industry with public funds will continue to be a mirage except the funds are sourced through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives to solve the deficits.

Barrister Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council stated this while speaking at the second edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference in Lagos last week.

Bello, who was represented by Mrs. Celine Ifeora, Head, Compliants department of Nigerian Shippers Council, rued the poor state of port infrastructure saying that provision of light alone in the ports by terminal operators which ought to be provided by government has added to the costs of cargo clearance.

He reiterated that public funding alone cannot meet the infrastructural needs of the country except with the aid of Private Public Partnership collaborative funds.

Mrs. Vicky Haastrup, Executive Chairman of ENL Consortium, one of the panelists, said that the entire port system had broken down before the concession in 2006 and wondered why government has not paid attention to the problem of the sector that has generated several billions of revenue for it.

Haastrup said government has failed to create an enabling environment as the poliferation of jetties and location of both Apapa and Tincan Ports have made it difficult for further expansion of infrastructure and provision of new ones.

Haastrup said lack of holding bays, which ought to have been provided by the Nigerian Ports Authority, is a major problem for terminal operators as they do not have space to accommodate thousands of trucks that call at the port daily.

She maintained that government would have made a lot of money from trucks parking at such a bay if it is available.

For government to tackle the infrastructural deficit plaguing the industry, Haastrup called for partnership between government and private sector, adding that there is a need for government to engage stakeholders in policy formulation for the industry.

On rising cost of cargo clearance, Haastrup said terminal operators have always been criticised for increasing their charges whereas NIMASA, NPA, Customs and Nigerian Shippers Council increased theirs without being criticised, noting that all these contributed to high costs of cargo clearance.

“Maritime industry has the potentials and capacity to generate revenue for Nigeria as long as the right policy and attention are paid to the industry. It breaks my heart that enough attention is not paid to the sector.

“Entire port system collapsed before concession. Terminal operators have brought a lot of development to the industry. We have done our own bit and will continue to do more. Government needs to do its own bit too. Government should take advice from stakeholders before coming up with any policy.

“NIMASA, NPA, Customs and Nigerian Shippers Council increase their charges with nobody raising eyesbrow except when terminals do same. People hate us because we are bringing changes to the ports. We will continue to invest and increase human capacity,” she submitted.

Contributing, Mr. Bola Ashiru, of Dolloite, said there is a need for government to develop a masterplan and cohesion as related to provision of infrastructure in the industry.

Describing the PPP in the port reform as a success, Ashiru called for consistency in government policy for further consolidation of the PPP.

On funding, he called on financiers to give adequate attention to terminal operators first because of their experience as the operators.

Mrs. Funke Agbor, a maritime lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said it is important for government agencies in the ports to understand their roles and duties and implement them accordingly for the industry to witness growth.

According to her, all these agencies have to push for the passage of the maritime law bills that are lying fallow at the National Assembly for the benefit of the industry as they are critical to investment.

“It is critical that all these laws are implemented. We have to push forward the passage of all the maritime bills in the National Assembly to see that they are passed. They are critical to investment in the port,” she said.

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