Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, who was represented by Maritime Services Director Sani Umar Galandachi, broke the news yesterday in Abuja, at the second edition of the stakeholders conference organised by The Nation in collaboration with Eipsilon Limited.
The theme of the event is: “Intermodal freight transport: Key to unfolding the potential of Nigerian seaports for speedy economic recovery and growth.
A technical committee headed by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and officials of ministries, departments and agencies that operate at the ports, Amaechi said, has been constituted to drive the single window process and strengthen the maritime industry by boosting efficiency and reducing cost and time of doing business at ports.
The minister added that the Buhari administration was determined to harness the potential of the transport sector so that it can have an overwhelming positive impact on the GDP, influence the growth of the nation’s economy through market expansion, opportunities for foreign trade, competition, foreign exchange earnings, and serving strategic national interests like wealth creation and employment generation.
President Buhari, Amaechi said, is also conscious of facilitating intermodal transport system by prioritising the rehabilitation, upgrading, modernization and construction of the nation’s railway lines and roads, which are expected to be connected with the ports to promote inter-modalism.
The Federal Ministry of Transportation, Amaechi said, is desirous of evolving a world class transportation system by positioning itself as a hub in West and Central Africa through the establishment of a safe, efficient, affordable and seamless intermodal transport system in line with global best practices.
The government, is also creating an enabling environment for Public Private Partnership (PPP) by embarking on major reforms, initiatives and laudable programmes.
“Therefore, it is revealing that the Day’s theme is apt and would not have come at a better time than now, considering the efforts of the Federal Govenment to diversify and make other sectors function effectively and contribute to the national economy.
“It may interest you to note that the Federal Government’s plan to implement a National Single Window Platform to harmonise trade procedures to drive revenue generation and strengthen national security at land borders, sea and air ports has reached advanced stage.
“A technical committee under the chairmanship of the Vice President with membership from relevant ministries, departments and agencies that operate at the ports was constituted to drive the process.
The technical committee co-chaired by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) recommended the establishment of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called the National Trade Platform (NTP) with three units, namely the single window (imports ans exports), scanning services and port community system,” Amaechi said.
The interest of all stakeholders, the Minister said, is being harmonised by the government for realistic implementation .
To ensurea cordial and harmonious relationship and reduce inter-maritime agency conflicts, the ministry has initiated routine meetings with its agencies to address concerns and ensure collaboration to develop the industry.
According to the minister, to institutionalise all legal and regulatory reforms, the Federal Government, Amaechi said, seeking amendment or alteration of obsolete bills to achieve best practices.
Anarchist went on: “The Federal Government has developed a 25 Years Railway Strategic Vision, which involves system transition, system modernisation and construction of new lines and extensions through public private partnership ( PPP) and system stabilisation.
“This has resulted in the completion of Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge rail line, the ongoing construction of Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line is expected to be completed by December this year and Itakpe -Ajaokuta -Warri rail line which is also expected to commence operation before the end of the year,” he said.
Advertisement, the Minister said, has been placed for the construction of Eastern rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and other critical lines.
The concession of Onitsha River Port, Amaechi said, is at advanced stage while that of Lokoja, Baro, Oguta River ports will boost commercial activities in communities along the Inland waterways when completed.
Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA) Managing Director Ms Hadiza Bala Usman said the capacity of the port has increased from 3.7million metric tons in the 70s to 77million metric tons in 2015, in spite of the recession. The figure, she said, is about 108 per cent increase over the total port design capacity.
The Managing Director, who was represented by Executive Director Muhammmad Bello-Koko, added that the container throughput in the seaports has grown by over 100 per cent, gross tonnage has grown by over 200 per cent and export has also grown by over 500 per cent.
Usman said, based on close linkage between sea port activities and economic development, the Buhari administration, through the NPA, cannot afford to treat it with levity.
The Federal Government, Usman said, is therefore reforming operations at the seaports for optimal performance, and making the transport sector responsive and dynamic enough to boost speedy economic recovery and growth.
Unnecessary delays, sharp practices and scam, Usman said, are being reduced drastically at the ports for goods to move freely, thereby making just in time (JIT) supply chain management to be effective.
The NPA boss identified the following as some of the benefits of intermodal freight transport:
* possibility of seamless door-to-door transport, which is the greatest advantage to shippers;
*consolidation, particularly in the longer distance truck line move, as this leads to economies of scale;
* possibility of transporting goods more economically in containers that can be moved on land by rail or truck and ob water by ship or barge. Containers save handling costs when freight must be transferred from one mode to another (e.g from ships to trucks(; also a truck-rail container movement can yield savings compared with truck alone if the cost of the transfer is offset by rail’s lower cost per ton mile. The movement of bulk commodities is also included in international modal freight transport; and
*the enhancement of efficiency and integration within the supply chain could be transformed into improvement in cost, quality of service and delivery times.
Customs Comptroller General Col. Hameed Ali (Retd.) identified sharp practices by importers and clearing agents as factors militating against quick cargo clearance and assured stakeholders that the Service would ensure that scanners are provided at sea ports, air ports and border stations between now and early next year to boost the trade facilitation programme of the Federal Government.
Col. Ali assured stakeholders that the Buhari administration has the political will to introduce a single window platform to reduce costs, increase compliance of importers and exporters and boost security.
He said: “I congratulate the Organizers for achieving this feat of bringing all stakeholders together to discuss an issue of great national importance. I have always believed that our port system may be plagued with a myriad of problems, we stand stronger together, with a collective will to confront the knotty issues and proffer solutions.
“Over the years, our port system have been adjudged poor performers by major Rating Agencies in terms of its competitiveness, charges paid for its service, and efficiency.
“In terms of its strategic importance to the realisation of the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), the Federal Government of Nigeria last year, issued the Ease of Doing Business Executive Order E01, with far reaching measures to improve business environment for Port operations. The Order imposes collective obligations on all stakeholders to work together to reduce observed bottlenecks in our operations, achieve faster processing of cargo clearance, streamlining of procedures and fighting corrupt practices in our ports.
“One year on, this conference offers us the opportunity to take stock of our performance and reflect on the progress made in our attempt to bring efficiency to the Ports. You may also recall that in the course of last one year, criminal elements attempted to exploit the weakness in the port systems to compromise our national security through the importation of arms and ammunition through Apapa and Tin-can Island Ports.
“We therefore need to work together to present a united front against those characters waiting in the wings to compromise our system. We must leverage on opportunities presented by new technologies to fast track
compliant traders and punish the offenders. We have to strengthen our capacity to investigate offenses against our laws and impose heavy sanctions that has deterrence factors on deviants.
“We must all resolve that the selfish interests of few economic saboteurs should not be allowed to subjugate our collective will to bring sanity to our port system.
“One way to improve our performance is actually to carry out an assessment of our operation, identify areas where we have made progress,and those where we still have some bottlenecks and delays. Following the methodology of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the Nigeria Customs Service last month, in collaboration with our Stakeholders launched a Time Release Study project as a tool for trade facilitation.
“The study is expected to scientifically measure the time taken for clearance of goods between the time of arrival and exit from the port. Using Apapa port as a pilot, the study will undertake an assessment of the clearance business process, collect survey data, analyze and publish the results.
It is hoped that the study will chart a roadmap for collective implementation of measures to achieve faster clearance. I am happy to announce that the Working Group, comprising representatives of all stakeholders here was inaugurated yesterday, and is currently undergoing a training workshop in Lagos, under the guidance of the WCO,”the CGC said.
Stakeholders at the conference said the single window is a laudable initiative, which a country like Nigeria ought to embrace to transform the ports.
Dr Obajuluwa Oluwasanmi said the single window platform would enhance trade competitiveness through improvement in import, export, transit procedures and information sharing system among the government agencies.
The facility, he said, would ensure that there is a paperless Customs declaration, compliance and online approval on all exports and imports coming to the country.
The current 100 per cent physical examination of goods, according to him, would be reduced and all government agencies at ports integrated.
“The single window facility will also need to be supported by legislation from the National Assembly
“The National Single Window is the ultimate in port operation. But it must be multi-agencies integrated for it to be successful. The port is a transit point and our ports must be seen and used as such.
That is why we have dry ports across the country to decongest the port and NPA as the landlord must have a say.
“The benefits are immense, because on a micro level, it will boost the competitive advantage of our ports and its traders on the international markets while increasing government’s revenue, boost foreign direct investment, introduce simpler, faster clearance, and release processes,” he said
The Government’s attention on the single window, he said, should be focused on the following:
*reducing time and cost of doing business at ports;
*simplification and automation of ports operations; and
*reduction of the human interface and increased transparency among others.
The Managing Director and Editor -in-Chief of The Nation Mr Victor Ifijeh,who was represented by the Chairman, Editorial Board Mr Sam Omatseye thanked the Minister, the Comptroller-General of Customs and the Chief Executives of NPA, NIMASA, the Nigerian Shippers Council, NIWA and other agencies for their support and collaborate with the paper to organise the event.
“We were all in Lagos last year to witness the first edition of this conference. Today, we are all here for the second edition as part of our efforts to move the transport sector forward and help in speedy economic recovery and growth of our country.
“We all know the problems facing us as a nation and our economy.
They have also been the subject of various talks. Nevertheless, until the problems are adequately addressed, the need for more engagements like we are having now will continue.
For the Federal Government’s plans to introduce single window platform and provide scanners for Customs examination, the Editor-in-Chief said there was need for all agencies at ports to key into the trade facilitation programme of the Federal to boost efficiency, reduce time and cost and make the ports competitive and attractive for business.
ORIGINAL SOURCE:THE NATION