The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman has renewed clamour for the deployment of scanners at the nation’s seaport as part of measures to fast track cargo evacuation.
Speaking in an interview with Television Continental (TVC) on Tuesday, Bala Usman explained that the management of NPA is working with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Terminal Operators and other stakeholders to fast track cargo evacuation.
Explaining further, Bala Usman said: “We (NPA) will continue to engage with our stakeholders. We recognise that we must enhance efficiency, we must ensure that consignees come to clear their cargoes within the time limit.
“Some of the things we are doing is pushing to ensure that vessels come in good time and are evacuated without delay. We do have attendant challenges as I mentioned, because the waiting time within our ports is not in the optimal manner that we would like it to be.
“We are working seriously with the Terminal Operators and Nigerian Customs to fast track the process of evacuating cargoes and also importantly, the inspection of cargoes.
“This is something that is great priority for the Ports Authority, for the Nigerian Government, more so for the Nigeria Customs.
“We need to deploy scanners in our ports so that cargoes can be inspected using scanners. Right now as a lot of consignees are aware, cargoes are inspected physically.
“So, having the entire cargo that come into Nigeria being physically examined, you would look at how difficult and challenging that would be and the time frame with which we would have that attendant longer window because the inspection officers would have to literally have to open all the containers that come in.
“So, ensuring that we deploy scanners are key for us and ensuring that we put in place automation mechanism for improving efficiency. “As you are aware, we had a challenge with APM Terminal, one of our largest container terminals in the last few months but they have complied with all the regulations and have imported all the necessary equipment/cranes needed for fast evacuation of cargoes and indeed that’s what we need.
“We need responsible terminal operators that would adhere to development plans within the concession agreement. However, if they don’t adhere, we would sanction them.
“With APM Terminals, you can now see that those cranes have been deployed and are now working seriously with Nigerian Ports Authority in improving on their operational efficiency”.
Bala Usman who spoke on sundry issues in the sector said: “The Nigerian Ports is the gateway to the economy and that was clearly stipulated in the Presidential speech when the President directed that ports operations remain functional even when we had a full lockdown.
“So, we proceeded with implementing and ensuring that our staff are provided with the necessary essential duty cards and as you know, ports operations are not limited to what only the Nigerian Ports Authority does but what the larger stakeholder group does, meaning, the Terminal Operators, Shipping Companies and other third party contractors”.
Making reference to the Eastern Ports, Bala Usman pledged the commitment of the Authority to sustain ongoing momentum, adding that plans are underway to engage Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the area of security.
The NPA Boss also used the opportunity to commend the Management of APM Terminals for deploying modern equipment designed to enhance cargo delivery processes.
Bala Usman had during the commission of new Mobile Harbor Cranes at APM Terminal, in Lagos recently said: “We are engaging with the Nigeria Customs Service to remove overtime containers from the port to free vital space for incoming ones.
“We are also working with terminal operators to increase the barging of containers to take pressure off the roads.
“We have noted a significant growth in barging capacity and operations with more containers moved daily by barges from the port.”
She explained that ports were concessioned by the Federal Government to improve efficiency and free government resources for other developmental purposes.
According to the NPA boss, cargo volumes at the port have witnessed a steady rise due to favourable government policies, adding that NPA has continued to engage with private terminal operators to rise to the challenge of the increased cargo traffic.
The engagement with the operators, according to her, is yielding tangible results as evidenced by the commissioning of the two new Mobile Harbor Cranes, among others.