How NPPM can reduce dwell time, delays, wastes –Hassan Bello

Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) and the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) are two key policy interventions of the Federal Government to bring sanity to the Nigerian port industry. Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the port economic regulator is the government agency driving the two policy instruments. The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Barr Hassan Bello in this barred interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI speaks on the policies and more. Excerpts


The Federal Government recently launched the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM), what does that hold for the industry?

It is credibility in the port process, operating our ports with international parameters with efficiency, transparency and competition. Our ports will be streamlined with each agency performing its standard operating procedure which happens in international trade.


That will bring greater efficiency that reduces significantly the delays and the wastes. For example, we are doing 21 days cargo dwell time but if we are able to streamline and have the process manual done as it is all over the world, we will be aiming at seven days because there should be joint boarding.


What happens now or before is that each agency, Customs, NIMASA, Immigration, board the ships at their leisure and separately, what that means is that immensely the ship can be there for five to six hours, but if we organize all the agencies or mostly all the agencies at the same time, it will speed up the process.


Now, there is also an aperture of corruption individually as they board the ships. That is what is happening, you find people wanting to use discretion, it has been happening and we have arrested people trying to arrange for discretions.


The ship captain or Master has to now rely on Nigerian Shippers Council to find out what is happening whenever they are confronted with such a situation. Already, we are seeing reduction in such cases and the ship-owners are saying with this, things will get a lot better in these cases that make your ports unhealthy that make your port sick. This is resulting in improved turnaround time and it is a sign that our ports have been saved.


Sir, we understand that Nigeria Shippers’ Council is the lead agency in this regard. Is it in line with its responsibility as the port economic regulator? We have always been doing that. Yes we are the economic regulator; we are naturally the lead agency. All the other agencies perform services that need to be assessed and supervised, superintended. Shippers’ Council is the umpire, it is the referee, it is the coordinator and the supervisor. But that does not confer superiority over the other agencies. That we are coordinating does not mean that we export business for the individuals, we praise, monitor, assess, monitor and access. We praise but we also reprimand


When the cargo tracking note was initially introduced, it was controversial. Port users were kicking against it. Again Shippers’ Council is on the saddle to drive it now the Federal Government is determined to reintroduce it. What is your take on that?


There is nothing controversial about the cargo tracking note. It is just that new things attract some reluctance because they are changing things. That is why significantly the cargo tracking note is going to do because we have invaluable data and that is what is of concern to the Nigeria Shippers’ Council; veritable invaluable data we can access in infrastructure.


We know the type of import, so that we can project and then security, we know everything that is coming. A pin cannot enter the country without Shippers Council knowing.


So the cargo tracking note more than any document or transport document like the Bill of Lading, will reveal everything about the cargo. In the Bill of Lading, the clause is said to contain but the Import Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) contains description of everything about the cargo, the value, quality, volume, quantity, distance, origin, everything is contained in the in the manifest and its compulsory that these are projected to the bill of lading and this means that this is done at the port of loading, which means it must be electronically transmitted  to the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, which we can share with relevant authorities like the Nigeria Customs Service; so that Customs can look at it and issue bill because everything is contained in there. Customs will be happy with the ICTN because there will be no discretion.


Then we relate it to the Custom Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR). 80 per cent of imports into Nigeria are underdeclared while about 35 to 40 per cent are concealment; they are not even accounted for. With a cargo tracking note, there is no hiding place for anybody.


It also ease transaction at the port, if a ship is coming, it is when it is only when it arrives at the Anchorage that you know and start to run around on what to do but with cargo tracking note, one month, 20 days before arrival, you know the cargo and you can plan to receive the cargo. It is good for arrival, stay and departure. So, this is a lot of reasons why we should have a cargo tracking note.


Despite these benefits you have listed, shippers are worried over the fees that will be charged, the tariff?


Yes. They have the right be. But it is also a service to the shippers because with ICTN. It is value added to the shippers. The shipper will be able to take his consignment in seven days. Would he rather take his cargo in 21 days, because it is a lot of service to the shippers.


So, we should not be expecting that it would add much to the cost of doing business in the port?


No. But we will be reasonable with the charges. It is going to be the lowest in Africa. It is an administrative charge.


When are we expecting it to take off?


It is going through due process. You know everything is open from the Procurement Process. The president has approved and the Federal Ministry of Transportation is in the process and it is very transparent in the process. So, it is concluded that it will take off  We want the best for this country.


What is your assessment of the electronic truck call-up system recently introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority?


It is going to work. We just have to be patient. Nigerian Ports Authority is doing everything that needs to be done. So as I said a new thing, new opposition. People want to thrive on chaos, so they kick against change.


They make profit from the chaos. NPA has introduced a revolutionary thing, they are going to oppose it, we see push backs, but what I am saying is that in the first two to three weeks of the commencement of the ecall up system, we saw cost of transportation crash, so we are back to normalcy instead of the distortions we have been experiencing because of the gridlock. Now, that modern traffic management system is not the only thing Shippers’ Council is interested in ensuring easy access to our ports. Shippers’ Council is supervising a multi-modal movement of cargo in and out of our ports.


The Federal Government has linked Apapa Port to the rail system, Tin Can Port is next. The mistake we made before was depending on one mode of transportation, we are not going to repeat that mistake. Aside that, our ports are being digitized, in no distant time human contact which breeds corruption will be eliminated from our port system.


From just 20 per cent to 60 per cent, now there are people who have reached 90 per cent digital operation and, I am pushing for 100 per cent across the industry. So in no time, we will not see human beings in the ports. We have given time lines to those still operating manually to go digital.


In spite of all the efforts you are making to ensure that the Inland Containers Terminal (ICDs), it seems it has become a while elephant project?


It is not true. The ICDs are working. The one in Kaduna is working. Get in touch with them to confirm. Ofcourse, rail capacity is a challenge because of a washout of rail track but the Nigerian Railway Corporation has assured that it is working hard to restore it.


The Kano ICD is starting in 2021; the one Ibadan also is taking off in 2021. Once they take off, you will see decongestion on the roads. These are beautiful things Shippers Council is doing, but its not Shippers Council alone, they are with the private sector.


What is happening to your effort for Nigeria to secure the transit cargoes of Niger and other landlocked countries?


It is on. The 30,000 metric tons of transit cargo of Niger passing through Ivory Coast, shouldn’t be. It should be passing through Nigeria. Even the small of the Niger cargo transiting through our country I am expecting that Nigeria should not only be the nodal point for transit cargo, it should be the hub of transit cargo for West and Central Africa.

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi recently said that the Kano-Daura-Maradi standard Rail Gauge will enhance transshipment of transit goods to Niger. Do you agree with him?


Yes. That is why we have the Daura cargo terminal.




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