The year 2021 in the country’s maritime sector was loaded with high expectations, but with a few days to go until the end of the year, only a few of those expectations have materialized.
For example, stakeholders expected the port to be fully automated, with the deployment of the Deep Blue project expected to end maritime crimes and piracy in the country’s coastal waters and in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), among others.
But, while the electronic call system solved the traffic jam crisis on the access road to the port, other elements, such as the container depot, the shipping surcharge, the Lagos barge initiative. Onitsha from the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), among others, always require more attention.
Despite assurances from the federal government that all Nigerian seaports will be fully automated before the end of the second quarter of 2021, the ports are still operating manually, which promotes corruption and inefficiency.
Former Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Executive Secretary Barr. Hassan Bello expressed the council’s intention to achieve 90% automation in all aspects of port operations by the end of the second quarter of 2021.
Bello, who expressed optimism that the activities of shipping lines and terminals will achieve a minimum of 90% automation by June 2021, added that digitization will help reduce delays, increase efficiency. and reduce revenue losses in the port system.
He noted, however, that the absence of scanners and the resulting 100% physical examination of cargoes could hinder the achievement of the port automation goal, but said he was pleased with the electronic appeal system. of trucks introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
For him, “we must not forget that we have competition. Nigerian ports are expected to be the hub of the West and Central Africa region. However, we cannot achieve this without fully automated, 24 hour ports. Most of the ports in the world are digital. Human contact is dangerous; it leads to delays and extortion.
“A port is not a place of contact. We are trying to achieve this 100% automation. To achieve this, we need full integration with banks, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), terminals and shipping lines, among other stakeholders.
In addition, congestion at the country’s busiest seaports, Apapa and Tin-Can Island, due to overtime that has been abandoned by importers, is a major challenge in 2021.
These cargoes affected the efficiency of seaports and caused them to operate below capacity.
Port congestion, in addition to deficiencies in operational equipment, archaic customs clearance processes and huge cargo turnaround times, further worsened the efficiency of the ports of Apapa and Tin-Can Island.
It was found that the volume of abandoned cargo and overtime at the seaport now exceeds 6,000 containers and continues to increase. Abandoned shipments also include more than 1,800 vehicles.
According to the director general of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Bello-Koko, the situation compromises the efficiency of the port system because the problem which until then was limited to the ports of Lagos now extends to other ports in d ‘other regions of the country.
The boss of the NPA also revealed that there are abandoned containers that have been in ports for more than 20 years, adding that, the continued stay of problematic cargoes is now a major factor contributing to the current congestion of ports across. the country. adding that the Ikorodu light terminal, ILT, where these categories of cargo are taken is also filled.
He further revealed that the NPA wrote to the Comptroller General of Nigeria’s Customs Service, NCS, asking him to expedite the process of auctioning these containers.
He said: “Over time, cargoes are exceptionally reported by terminal operators after a 90-day grace period for these cargoes to remain in ports.
“We currently have over 6,000 containers in ports, including Ikorodu, then we have over 1,800 vehicles in Ikorodu and other places, and some of them have been there for 10 years, a few there. are probably 15 years old, and it’s not just one place; A port in River State is starting to have this problem. All of a sudden the port of Onne now has a lot of overtime containers, but the ports here in Lagos have most of them.
“The problem existed before the arrival of the current Comptroller General of Customs.
“In fact, I was made to understand that there were containers that had been seized since 1977 FESTAC and like last year, these containers were there. I don’t know if they’ve been erased now.
“We have written to the Nigerian customs service to expedite the process of auctioning these containers.
“Imagine 6000 containers; they really take up a lot of space. The Ikorodu terminal has been designated as the cargo overtime evacuation location, but the terminal is now full.
“So there is actually no space to move in more containers and we have written to customs about this situation.
“I think they must have started the process of auctioning some of these containers.” It will also reduce congestion and free up space for other containers to fit in. Terminal operators also complain about these additional cargoes. “
Electronic call-up (eto)
In February, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), deployed the electronic control system to relieve traffic congestion on the port road.
With the deployment of “Eto”, trucking companies, terminal operators and freight agents must download the app, then create an account to monitor the schedule and movement of their trucks in and out of the port.
According to those responsible for the e-call up system; MM. Trucks Transit Parks Ltd (TTP), the benefits for “Eto” subscribers include: increasing returns on logistics investment while maximizing time per trip; reduce truck traffic congestion and streamline freight movement activities; intelligent parking for trucks; information navigation options for truck owners / drivers on available parking spaces; as well as convenience and safety for drivers at designated truck transit fleets.
The roll-out of the electronic truck call platform has been a game-changer, the freight charges on fully loaded containers from the Lagos Apapa port complex to a destination in the Lagos region have fallen by 100% over the course of the year. week. when the Eto app was officially launched.
Likewise, transport costs from the port of Tin-Can Island to warehouses in Lagos State have gradually declined from over 1 million naira in December 2020 to 210,000 naira for a 20 TEU container. by the second quarter of 2021.
Deployment of the Deep Blue project
In June, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also known as the Deep Blue Project.
The project, which was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Ministry of Defense, is being implemented by NIMASA. The main objective of the Deep Blue project is to secure Nigerian waters to the Gulf of Guinea. The project will tackle maritime safety on land, at sea and in the air.
Land assets include the Command, Control, Communication, Computing and Intelligence Center (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armored coastal patrol vehicles; and 600 specially trained interdiction soldiers, known as the Maritime Security Unit.
Maritime assets include; two special mission ships and 17 rapid interception boats. The air assets include two special mission planes for surveillance of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ); three special mission helicopters for search and rescue operations; and four unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Deep Blue Project is the first integrated maritime security strategy in West and Central Africa with the aim of tackling cases of piracy, theft at sea and other crimes at sea.
The Deep Blue Project Maritime Security Unit (MSU), made up of personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Police and Department of State Services , conducted simulation exercises on land, in the air and at sea to confirm readiness for full deployment.
According to the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, “With the deployment of Project Deep Blue assets, we are entering another level of national security designed for a full spectrum maritime safety and better domain knowledge using some of the latest technology.
“This effort to secure our waters would give Nigerians more leverage to exploit the enormous resources of our maritime environment and aid in economic diversification.”