Shippers’ Council to attain 90% ports automation by June, says Bello

Going by present realities and further assurances by all relevant stakeholders, automation of all aspects of port operations is expected to reach 90 per cent by the end of the second quarter of 2021, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has said.

Addressing the maritime media in Lagos, the NSC Executive Secretary, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the digitalisation of the activities of shipping lines and terminals would curb delays, boost efficiency and reduce revenue leakages in the port system.

Though he expressed fears that the continued 100 per cent physical examination of cargoes by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) could drag the process, he commended the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) electronic truck call-up system and the automated services of some shipping lines and port terminals.

According to Bello, “we shouldn’t forget that we have competition. Nigerian ports should be the hub in the West and Central African region. However, we can’t achieve this without ports that are fully automated and operating 24 hours daily.

“Most ports across the world are digitalised. Human contact is dangerous, it brings delay and extortion. A port isn’t a place for contact. We are trying to achieve 100 per cent automation. To do this, we need full integration with banks, Nigeria Customs Service, terminals and shipping lines, among other stakeholders.”

Presently, PTML is leading the port terminals in service automation at 92 per cent and BUA at 75 per cent, while Grimaldi is highest in the shipping lines segment at 88 per cent, followed by Ocean Network Express at 75 per cent and CMA CGM at 60 per cent, he said.

Meanwhile, Bello stressed that in view of the economy of scale and modern trends, Nigeria needs to upgrade from its current “outdated” ports to deep seaports, stating: “We know that Apapa and Tin Can are tired ports that can’t be dredged further.

“Ships shouldn’t stay at other nations and transship to Nigeria. It should be the other way round. The development of deep seaports such as Lekki could be a game-changer in that regard.”

Similarly, he said the agency was exploring public private partnerships (PPP) as alternative ways to hasten the development of viable dry ports and truck transit parks across the nation, while the government’s linking of the ports by rail will make cargo evacuated cheaper and faster.

Equally, “inland waterways by barges is an alternative for cargo evacuation. This hasn’t been perfected because of security, safety and tariff structures that need to be addressed. There is an overall issue of standardisation.”

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