Port reforms: Committee, stakeholders seek system automation, improved human capacity

Full automation and improved human capacity were on Wednesday identified as key areas to be integrated for reforms of the Nigeria’s ports.

This was arrived at during a joint stakeholders’ meeting with a sub-committee on port reforms under the National Economic Management.
Head of the committee, Mr Gabriel Ajuda, said the system would only function effectively with competent people across the sub-sectors of the maritime industry.
“You realise that it is not enough to just put reforms in place, you must be able to match man and machine  for us to achieve what we are looking for at the port. “What we are here to do is to look at that role that man plays, with the automation in place.
On the way forward to attain an effective port system, Ajuda called for a reverse penalty system to make people pay and take responsibility for causing delays, which are detrimental to business growth.
He said this cuts across the need for call-up system for trucks in order to avoid congestion and the use of the port access roads as parking lots.
Mrs Dabney Shall-Homa, Director, Commercial Shipping Services of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) who acted as a moderator in the committee, said automation of the port system was paramount for a new port order.
Shall-Homa noted that the port system was operating on a half-baked technology that had refused to integrate into a prevailing and more robust platform.
She said that by 2015 when international trade begins to operate on a fully-automated system, countries that failed to key into the single window system would have difficulties in the flow.
“We need flexible technology to drive the system; the infrastructure on which the technology will actually function, and competent people who are the operators of the technology.
“We do not need those who do not understand the industry, but they must understand the input of what they are doing and the relevance of the maritime industry economically to national development,” she said.
Representing the shipping companies, Mr Okorie Obioma, called for a revival of the rail system to attain a new port order.
According to him “If the rail systems become very functional, the pressure on the roads will be reduced and the port access roads will be free of congestion.”
Mr Daniel Odibe, representing logistics service providers, said it was important to revive the call-up system for trucks to avoid indiscriminate parking of trucks along the port corridors.
He said this was one major cause of congestion as the act usually blocked the port corridor access.
Rev. Nicodemus Odolo, representing the Shippers Association of Lagos State, blamed terminal operators for receiving more cargo than they could handle, bearing the machinery they have on ground to work.
 “The terminal operators cause delays to position containers for examination because they lack enough equipment for the jobs they take.
“They should consider having an equipment-leasing system where they can have a pool for infrastructure development to boost their service,” he said.
Odolo said agents must consult with shippers before embarking on strike as every action had a way of affecting businesses.
He also faulted some security agencies for allegedly allowing drivers to shunt the queues to get into the ports after collecting money from them.
The committee called on all key stakeholders to play their roles adequately to improve services at the nation’s ports.