Shippers’ council budgets N1bn for system automation

Anthony Oliwe

• Launches standardisation procedure, cargo tracking
• Pushes higher capital base for freight forwarders

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) said it has budgeted above N1billion for system automation in its medium term economic programme. The automation is meant to ease operations at the nation’s ports, with a view to significantly reducing costs for ports users.Intimating journalists at the weekend in Lagos on ‘Transforming the Nigerian Ports for National Economic Development: The Role of Nigerian Shippers’ Council,’ the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, NSC, Hassan Bello, said the automation is part of a national single window being introduced at the nation’s ports.

He disclosed that other agencies at the ports, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), are all part of the single window and have also automated their systems.

He said: “The automation is the aggregate of all the automation that would be integrated as a unified platform, and we will have a national single window. The window is built on separate systems but these systems must be integrated.”

Bello noted that the system would not be static, as it will be improved on over time, as operators and ports users comment on its efficiency and effectiveness in meeting their needs. He added that port operators, such as freight forwarders, are also encouraged to key into the process, to enhance their operations.
He identified other short and long-term strategies that will enable the Shippers’ Council attain its mandate. They include: implementation of the recently launched Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for all agencies operating in the ports, and the implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), a web-based transport document meant to provide accurate shipping data.

With regard to pushing for increase in the capital base of freight-forwarders, Bello, who refused to state a specific amount for the industry consolidation, noted that operators would be carried along in whatever is prescribed.

“Yes, we’ve been talking about consolidation, but it is not like the Shippers’ Council will force consolidation on the freight-forwarders. Despite saying the economy is in recession, it is very important for them to increase their capital base,” he said. He disclosed that part of the reason for pushing the capital requirement is to enable the Council change the policy on how Nigeria’s crude is sold – from being Free on Board (FOB), which indicates whether the seller or the buyer has liability for the state of the goods during shipment between the two parties, to cost, insurance and freight (CIF). This requires the seller to arrange for the carriage of goods by sea to a port of destination, and provide the buyer with the documents necessary to obtain the goods from the carrier.

He argued that the move became necessary given the fall in oil prices at the international market occasioned by over-supply. He added: “The elements of recession is very important in whatever policy you come up with, and the most important thing is that all policies must be run by the people you’re trying to change those policies with.”

Against this backdrop, he disclosed that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Transport, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigerian Government and Singapore’s Pacific International Line (PIL), to float a joint venture national carrier.
Under the terms, “PIL will have 40 per cent of the equity and Nigerian entrepreneurs will have 60 per cent. The government is not putting a kobo in the venture because government is not a good business manager. Here, it is better handled by the private sector, and the private sector has to be responsible.”

To this end, “the venture will start with three or four ships. These ships will fly Nigerian flags and the status of national carriers conferred under the law, which means they will be getting national cargoes as well as from all the projects cargoes,” Bello said.

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