From Nduka Chiejina, (Asst. Editor), Abuja
THE maritime industry plans to grow its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from N1.9 trillion to N7 trillion yearly, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, has said.
The industry was promoted to increase its contribution to the GDP following the impact of the corona virus pandemic and the drop in the accruals from crude oil sales.
Bello, however, warned that the Council would revoke the licences of dormant Inland Container Depots (ICDs) otherwise known as dry ports.
He said the country has vast coastline and huge natural resources that could be tapped, processed and exported via the seaports to boost the country’s foreign exchange (forex) in addition to being a regional maritime super power.
Bello said the government has approved the modernisation of the ports to reduce “clearance cost, cargo dwell time and, ultimately, make them more globally competitive.
‘’We have been too glued to crude oil as if it won’t dry up. Now, the value is down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nigeria has robust maritime endowments that can buoy the economy if well harnessed. Currently, we’re doing between N1.9 and N2 trillion contribution to the GDP but our target is N7 trillion.”
To achieve this, Bello said the government has started moderning the ports and that it is targeting 90 per cent of their digitilisation by next march.
“There are three train trips to bring in empty containers and take out the cargo-laden ones. For every train trip, 38 trucks are taken out.
So, it means we would not have all the trucks at the ports and this will crash the haulage cost, he said, ading that “if we want to increase efficiency, boost revenue and facilitate legitimate trade. The port must be digitalized. Physical contact is spoiling the port and we can’t continue that way.”
Speaking on the positive take away from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bello said: “we found out that our ports could run daily 24/7. We can and we have to operate round the clock.”
He said running the ports round the clock would boost efficiency. “We have made the train work in the port, likewise barges. The roads are being worked on.
“Barges will also give the trucks a run for their money. You can imagine that it costs ?800,000 to move a container from Apapa to Funtua by truck. That’s high. So, the train service will crash the prices, save lives and preserve the roads,” Bello said.
Cargo dwell time he said will be reduced from 20 days to seven days when the trains and barges are fully deployed to the ports.
On the planned revocation of dry port licences, Bello said dry ports operators given licence to build and run the dry ports have been lagging behind and warned that government has asked these operators to quickly develop those facilities failing which government will revoke their licences and shop for fresh investors.
Six dry ports were licensed for operation, only Kaduna is fully operational while those at the risk of having their licences revoked are the Ibadan and Isiala-Ngwa ports.
With regard to the seaports, the NSC chief assured that the upcoming Lekki and Ibom seaports will have all the paraphernalia of modern ports.
Bello also appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend its intervention programmes to the maritime industry to unlock the potential in logistics chain and processing various commodities for export.
“Our Nigerian ginger is the best. But the logistics chain is bad and CBN can look into it. We need to look at the dry ports and make them viable. We need to urgently look at value addition, packaging and processing.
“Again, we need to get our ports to have export format because they were not configured for export. With these, massive jobs are created. We won’t care about oil anymore, ” he said.
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