The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Department of State Security Service (DSS)and other relevant agencies on Thursday harped on the need for collaboration on boarding, inspection of vessels calling at Nigeria seaports.
This proposal was among the key considerations during the agencies’ meeting presided over by the the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr Hassan Bello.
Noting that joint boarding of vessels is one of the maritime industry’s best practices globally, Bello recalled that the European Union and some operators in the global shipping community had bemoaned delays at Nigerian ports, hence the need to jointly address the delay problem.
He said: “Shipping is time bound and we face serious competition from other ports in the region. Why should Nigeria have 22 days ship turnaround time when our neighbours achieve it in 7 days?
“I am happy with the collaboration and commitment of all the government agencies. This development, coupled with the impending disappearance of traffic gridlock, will see shipping play its significant role in Nigeria’s economic development”, the NSC boss added.
In her comments, the General Manager, Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Mrs. Eniola Williams, who represented NPA’s Managing Director, promised that the Authority would begin to sanction any agency that failed to comply with the new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for inspecting vessels.
The General Manager pointed out that “each agency has its law with sanctions for offenders”, adding that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had at the recent launch of Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM), stressed the need to invoke sanctions on agencies violating any of the guidelines in the manual.
She said: “The people who come in via these ships are making first contact with Nigeria through that joint inspection and it is good we display integrity and take it seriously.”
Williams maintained that NPA desired to have the leading ports in Africa, adding that in attaining that, there was need to ensure that processes are timely, efficient and free from corruption.
Similarly, the Customs Deputy Controller, Administration, Idiroko Border, Dera Nnadi, said that integrity had to be prioritised in the joint exercise, adding to achieve this, each agency should provide its mandate with respect to onboard ship inspection.
Specifically, the Customs’ boss advised that the mandate of various government agencies on ship inspection should be availed the NPPM team and they should be measured with the reports from ship captains after inspections.
Nnadi also spoke on the need for the joint team to engage shipping lines to prioritise integrity in all areas of their operations
If the proposed joint approach is adopted, all agencies involved in inspecting ships would go onboard as a team for vessels’ inspections.
As part of the agencies’ commitment to the implementation of the proposal, they inaugurated a Port Standing Task Team to enforce compliance with the SOPs and Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) to make the maritime sector efficient and competitive.