By Funso Olojo
Nigerian ports may have effectively lost the bid to become transshipment centres in the West and Central African sub-region due to its aging and dilapidated infrastructure.
For several years, Nigeria’s government has laboured to position its ports as load centres in the sub-region for economic advantages.
But an investigation by our correspondent has revealed that long years of government neglect, lack of adequate investments in infrastructure, corruption, the multiplicity of government agencies and high cost and cumbersome nature of goods clearance of cargo at the Nigerian ports have all combined to rub Nigerian ports the preferred destination for cargoes within the sub-region.
Therefore, this development has made stakeholders in the industry berate the government for its failure to develop the port infrastructure which they lamented have greatly decayed and dilapidated.
They disclosed that even after the ports were conceded to private business interests, the concessionaires have done little to change the narrative as few of them are actually investing in the infrastructural development of the ports.
The stakeholders claimed that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the ports is more than 40 years old, which could no longer handle the volume of the operations at the ports.
Mr. Adeyinka Sholeye, a Marine Engineer, said that Nigeria has lost its transshipment hub status to West African countries like Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic due to dilapidated port infrastructure in Nigeria.
“These countries claimed trans shipment hub status from Nigeria because they have developed their ports into modern ones with infrastructure such as good access roads, a deeper draught that can accommodate larger vessels.
“Don’t be surprised that these ports have been automated. They have automated their processes.
“While these countries can take a vessel with 16 meters draught, none of the Nigerian seaports can accommodate such vessel due to the nation’s shallow draught that is not more than 13 meters.
“That is to tell you the level of seriousness and investments these people have committed to their ports.”
The Vice President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, speaking in a similar vein, lamented that the nation’s second-largest revenue earner, after oil, was left to wallop in such a sorry state with dilapidated infrastructure.
According to him, there are too many factors that are drawing the sector backward, ranging from bad access roads to the ports, to high shipping costs, shallow water draft at seaports.
“There are too many issues responsible for the setback. The government does not have either the political will or is not serious about implementing those good policies. You should expect that before the end of this year, we are going to have more than 40 percent drop in cargo coming to Nigerian ports.”
“The neighbouring countries, such as Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo are rapidly developing their seaports while Nigeria is currently losing grip of the shipping economy due to abandonment of the sector, which is the second revenue earner for the government after oil,” he noted.
The National President, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said the neighbouring ports have already positioned their ports as millennium ports, preferred, transshipment or load center, adding that most West African ports built their ports to accommodate Nigerian- bound cargo, knowing about the country’s poor infrastructure.
He identified the neighbouring ports, which have either completed their deep-sea projects or near completion at Cotonou, Benin Republic, Lome, Togo, Accra, Ghana and Cameroun.
He called on the Federal Government to wake up by designing the concept of a deep-sea/ transshipment center to accommodate large E-Class vessels/mega-ships of 8000- 20000 TEUs, that are currently demanded regionally and globally, which is the only solution to the diversion of goods to neighbouring ports.
He advised that with international best practices, Nigeria must design the National Guarantee system to cover the payment of import duty taxes at the time of transit; Custom Seal that ensures the physical integrity of the goods while in transit, making sure that the goods start and exit the transit in its original state; Implement electronic tracking system enabling Customs to track and locate transit vehicles and guide intervention force including Customs staff; a document system to enable transit document issued at the start of Transit journey to be accepted by transport and Custom authority along with transit.
Amiwero identified an inefficient port system as to why the country lost the transshipment hub status to other West African countries.
He said except there is a change in infrastructure rehabilitation, Nigeria will continue to lose cargoes to neighbouring countries, which have deep seaports and better facilities.
The freight forwarder lamented that Nigerian ports cannot accommodate mega-ships with 8000-20000 TEUs, arguing that this was against the trend in neighbouring ports.
He said the Federal government needs to address the unwholesome practices of manipulated delays by providers of shipping services and other government agencies, leading to high demurrage, rent, and high transactional costs.
Amiwero stated that such practices are inimical to the efficiency of the port system, adding that such issues against Nigerian ports need to be addressed for the sake of the national economy.
“There is need to reclaim our cargo from neighboring West African countries that are now a hub for Nigeria cargos, by working out a mechanism for a better developed regional hub to consolidate on our destination of Nigerian cargo that has been siphoned by regional ports,” he advised.
Source: Eyewitness News