By Isaac Anumihe
Following the congestions in Apapa and Lekki ports, the Federal Government has concluded plans to establish the first dry port in Kaduna.
Although, there is no sea in Kaduna, cargoes will be transported through the rail to Kaduna where they will be cleared.
This was disclosed at the weekend, by the Executive Secretary of Shippers Council, Mr Hassan Bello, during a parley with newsmen, at the weekend, in Lagos.
Rather than travelling all the way from Kaduna to Lagos to clear cargoes, he said, trailers will rather clear the cargo in Kaduna.
Bello also disclosed that 80 per cent of cargoes coming into Nigerian ports are under-declared and this impinges on the revenue profile of the nation.
To this effect, he explained, the operations in the ports would soon be automated so that the Federal Government would realize the appropriate revenue from the ports.
According to him, the automation, which would cost the council over N1billion, would ease the way things are currently handled in the ports and make the management more efficient and transparent.
“Automation is a very expensive project but automation of the ports is not exclusive to Shippers Council. For example, Nigerian Customs has automated their payments. Before, you have to go to the bank in Surulere or bank in VI and pay. Then you bring the teller to the NPA. But now, they have automated their system. What took like six days will be done in six seconds. So, this is their contribution to the automation at the ports. Nigerian Shippers Council is spending a little above N1 billion for the automation of our system. Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has also automated its system. Nigerian Customs is as a matter of fact, well ahead of automation. So, it is the aggregate of all these that will be taken as a unified platform and will have a national single window” he said.
“On many occasions,” he revealed, “ships assumed to be carrying other items have been found to be carrying firearms or dangerous weapons such as bombs. But with automation, such things would be a thing of the past because the system would give the accurate cargo that is coming into Nigeria.
“Also, rather than having offices at the ports and different parts of the country, the automation system would enable the council to know what each vessel is carrying by stayng in the office,” he said.
Bello also said that soon the government would institute a minimum share capital for freight forwarders before they would operate in the ports. This is because the council intends to professionalise their operation.
“We, Shippers Council, introduced and have propagated the Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarders.
Also, we wanted to see that freight forwarding is actually a profession. A freight forwarder is as good as lawyer. It is not anybody that can claim he is a lawyer.
He has to pass certain exams , have the licence, belong to the Nigerian Bar Association and be an advocate of the supreme court. Same thing we want the freight forwarders to do. So, whatever changes we want has to be done. Most of them are happy to make changes” he said.
The Executive Secretary further said that soon the sealink project with Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank would take off.
The sealink project would enable the West African sub-region to own its ship so as to reduce cost of freight.
According to him, most of the ships are owned by foreigners and they dictate freight and when to come to Nigerian waters.