The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) says it is embarking on a $1.1 billion ports rehabilitation plan in first quarter of 2024, to fortify Nigeria’s trade competitiveness.
The Managing Director, NPA, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, said this in a panel session at the 43rd Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) conference held on Tuesday in Lagos.
According to Bello-Koko, almost every port in Nigeria requires rehabilitation while NPA is initiating a substantial overhaul for all ports, starting with the TinCan and Apapa ports in Lagos.
“The objective of the authority is to enhance the physical infrastructure of these ports to accommodate vessels of all sizes and increase the draft at the quay side.
“Increasing the draft is with the aim of achieving draft depths of up to 14 meters and this initiative will render Nigerian ports more competitive on a global scale,” he said.
Bello-Koko further stated that the NPA was also strengthening collaborations with the private sector to establish new seaports.
Notably, he said, the Lekki Deep Seaport had already commenced operations, and the Badagry Deep Seaport recently signed an agreement with a Middle-Eastern party, with construction scheduled to commence early next year.
The NPA managing director noted that these endeavors exemplify the NPA’s determination to create a multimodal transportation system connecting all ports seamlessly.
On the inefficiencies associated with road-dependence in cargo evacuation, he said the NPA was actively working on alternative initiatives like barges and expanding rail infrastructure.
He informed that the rail line had reached Apapa port and would soon extend to TinCan port.
“The survey for deploying cargo rail and tracks to Onne port has been completed, setting the stage for the project to kick off next year,” he said.
To streamline operations and reduce costs, Bello-Koko said NPA was embracing automation in its operations.
“The authority has automated its collection system and is collaborating with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to introduce a state-of-the-art port community system, poised to optimise cargo clearance processes.
“The authority is working on clarifying the responsibilities of government agencies within the ports with the newly developed port process manual aimed at reducing overlaps and eliminating duplication of duties,” he said.
The NPA boss noted that the deployment of the “Deep Blue Sea” project, equipped with air and sea assets, would enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea and contribute significantly in reducing incidence of piracy within Nigerian waters.
He said that the NPA was collaborating closely with the Nigerian Customs to reduce bottlenecks and cut the cost of doing business within the ports.
“There will be development of a 25-year port master plan that will guide the location, sizes, and activities of ports, terminals, and jetties in Nigeria.
“The master plan will serve as a national working document, uniting all stakeholders towards marine and logistics development.” Bello-Koko said.
Also speaking, Mr Martin Boguikouma, President, PMAWCA, urged African countries to address challenges facing the region to be able to receive the new volume of traffic that would emerge due to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Boguikouma listed ways to solve the challenges, adding that the solution included collaboration between customs and port authority to harmonise customs procedure.
“We need to ensure capacity building of all seaports and customs officials, sensitise them on how to address cross border trade.
“There is need to work on reducing transport cost, investing in efficient transport infrastructure, maritime safety through enhanced interstate cooperation,” he said.
He noted that in Gabon, they had put in place things that would ensure that free trade became a success.
The PMAWCA president said that signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade facilitation, harmonised customs duty, which was very important for the AfCFTA, could aid in making free trade successful.
“We have put in place a National Commission for Trade Facilitation and the commission has three modules which are operationalisation of trade standard, adoption of roadmap for trade facilitation and a regulatory framework,” he said.