Seaport terminal operators have appealed to the Federal Government to hasten the construction of ports access roads as part of measures to reduce the cost of doing business.
The operators made the appeal when the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, led the Council on an inspection of terminals in Lagos on Wednesday.
The terminals visited were the Ports and Cargo Handling Serivces, Port and Terminal Multiservices Ltd. (PTML) and CMA CGM Shipping Company.
Mr John Jenkins, Managing Director of Ports and Cargo Handling Services Ltd., noted that the cost of doing business would reduce if the Tin Can Island Port access road was in good shape.
Jenkins pointed out that the challenge of the port access roads had resulted in congestion inside the port terminal, as the efforts to speedily evacuate cargoes were hampered by poor access roads.
He said there was a need to increase terminal handling charges as the cost of operations, salaries and other fees associated with port business had increased.
“We need to increase tariff because we have not done so in over nine years, while the cost of operations have increased.
“Our workers are expecting an increase in salaries. The cost of fuel and other necessary costs have also increased,” Jenkins said.
Mr Ascanio Russo, Managing Director PTML and Grimaldi Agency, Nigeria, said the company had invested heavily in infrastructure to ensure that automation moved smoothly.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved so far and we are happy with the rating of the NSC on our terminal as the most advanced in terms of digitalisation in the industry.
“ This is something we have invested in the past 10 years and so we are happy that Bello is pushing in forward and also the aspect of multimodalism. These are very critical issues to be on ground if we want this industry to be better,” Russo said.
Speaking on tariff increase which ought to have taken effect on June 1, Russo said the company decided to hold on, but would deliberate on the appropriate time to effect a change.
“ We all know what the inflation in the country is like, we also know the kind of investment we have made over the past 10 years. We have not had an increase in pricing and we have always offered the same high level of services.
“In PTML, there is no congestion, no delay and you can take away your container easily and all of these need investment. We are in an environment that keeping the same tariff for the past0 years is not sustainable anymore,” he said.
Earlier, Bello noted that the council had pushed enough concerning the state of the roads and that government had the responsibility of providing the conducive atmosphere for port operations.
“Government should treat the repair or building of new roads as something sacred, this is to ensure goods and services are taken and delivered without any hinderances,” he said.
He also urged the CBN to intervene on the port system as it was an alternative to oil, saying export of the countries product would impact on the economy but unfortunately, access to the port was not smooth.
Bello pointed out that some of the terminals were not built for export because the country had focused on import for a very long time, making the economy import dependent.
On increase in tariff by terminal operators, Bello stressed that the Council was not adverse to an upward review of charges.
He, however, said that any review should be reflected in service delivery and the procedures must be carried out in an orderly manner.
Bello commended Ports & Cargo Terminal for its improvement in automation, adding that the company should strive to attain a position where all of its services were done online.
“As an indigenous operator, we want you to be number one in digitisation. When we had the last rating on automation, you scored 25 per cent but we are happy that it’s 50 per cent today. We encourage you to attain 70 per cent in the next three weeks,” Bello said.
At Ports and Terminal Multiservices Ltd., Bello commended the management for attaining 90 per cent automation of its services.
The NSC boss told the company that the next achievement should be 24/7 port operations, even though he noted that security issues, bank operations and poor lighting could affect 24 hours operations.