Two weeks ago, the acting president Yemi Osinbajo released a new executive order part of which mandated the management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), service providers including other government agencies at the ports, to commence 24-hour operations in 30 days, which is about 21 days from now.
The order would help to eliminate the negative impact none clearing cargo on weekends and public holidays have on cost of doing business at the ports. It will also eliminate avoidable cost indemurrage and storage charges paid to shipping companies and terminal operators for not taking delivery of their consignment as when due, which is estimated at N1trillion annually.
Statistics shows that this is not the first time a government is attempting to implement a round-the-clock port operation as the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan introduced 24-hour operation as directed by then Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. However, the well-conceived policy failed due to poor implementation structure.
Players in the industry have noted that a commencing 24- hour port operation goes beyond an executive order. It will demand putting in place workable structures that would eliminate the obstacles that inhibit its coming into effect.
The Federal Government needs to put structures on ground to ensure round-the-clock power supply at the ports so that there would be 24-hour illumination of the port and its environment. Tin-Can Island port needs to be connected to the national grid to reduce the burden of operators generating their own power, which has significantly impacted on cost of doing business at the ports.
The current deplorable state of the access roads leading to the two major seaports in Lagos would also hinder effective 24-hour operations. The federal government needs to find lasting solution to the problem of the poor condition of Apapa roads.
The government must improve on the security system within and around the port by ensuring that security cameras are installed to monitor movement of persons and cargoes in and out of the ports.
Security officials such as men of the Nigerian Police Force and others must be on ground to monitor activities around the ports.
Also, there are expectations that commercial banks would commence round-the-clock operations to enable agents pay import duty and obtain necessary clearance whenever they have to. Alternatively, the customs should simply automate their payment process. This should not be rocket science.
Published August 30, 2017 by Business Day