By Gboyega Oni
A consideration for massive investment in intermodal transportation system by the Federal Government through the Public-Private Partnership will make the maritime industry a stronger catalyst for the growth of the nation’s economy.
Lack of intermodal transportation system connecting all the ports in the country has become a nightmare to terminal operators thus hampering easy movement of cargo in and out of the ports.
Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd), Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage and Logistics Limited, made the assertion in a paper he delivered at the second edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at the University of Lagos, in Lagos, last week.
The titled of the paper is Developing Critical Port Infrastructure Through Public-Private Partnership.
According to him, the current low level of development of the entire intermodal transport value chain in the Nigerian port sector is caused by underfunding, which he strongly believes can be addressed through focussed and sustained encouragement of potential private sector investors, both domestic and foreign.
Efficiency in port operation, he stated further, is best achieved when the three modes of transportation – sea, rail and road – are seamlessly brought together in a sustainable manner.
Besides tackling transportation mode, Ajetunmobi reiterated the need for all business entities in the maritime sector to pool resources together for the development of other critical port infrastructure.
He added that promotion of strategic alliances and partnership among principal stakeholders will improve the port industry, making it a more dominant contributor to the growth of the national economy.
Appreciating the impact of Executive Order and Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) on business activities in the ports, Ajetunmobi said these measures have encouraged increase in cargo, particularly non-oil exports, especially in the agriculture and solid minerals value chains, for ships to carry.
“Intermodal transport or more precisely, the lack of it, in the Nigerian port context, remains a major challenge to port efficiency, and may in fact actually be the Nigerian seaport terminal operator’s worst nightmare. Efficiency in port operation is best achieved when the three modes of transportation – sea, rail and road – are seamlessly brought together in a sustainable manner.
“It is challenging enough that maritime Nigeria has over the years neglected the wisdom in intermodalism when it chooses to focus majorly on just one mode of transport (road), to the near total neglect of the other two vital modes-rails and barges.
“This is one area that would benefit from decisive PPP – driven investment intervention. Perhaps the time is now right to start considering adoption of other options and models of maintaining and improving upon the quality of our port access roads, including concessioning through tolling.
“Efforts to develop the port industry will achieve greater effects if strategic alliances and partnership are grown not just between private and public entities alone, but between one business enterprise and another or better still, among a group of several others, aimed at pooling scarce resources.
“Cargo availability, especially export cargo, will keep our ports and terminals significantly busy. This is because ships will always go after the cargo wherever it is concentrated. t is in this context that one will want to appreciate the measures taken by the present Federal Government in its encouragement of the growth of non-oil exports, especially in the agriculture and solid minerals value chains,” the retired military officer said.