Govt Extends Ports To Hinterlands
THE perennial congestion at the Lagos Ports and the associated gridlock on the access roads may soon come to an end with the move to decongest the ports through the establishment of Inland Container Deports, otherwise referred to as inland or dry Ports.
To make the Inland Ports functional, the Federal Government is believed to be working on a policy aimed at declaring them as full-fledged ports, where goods could be shipped (export) and where goods from anywhere in the world could be received and cleared by consignees.
The dry ports, which are to be located in the country’s six geo-political zones are also to be declared as customs ports. That means they could act as a final destination point for goods from any part of the world as the consignees would not have to travel to the ports in Lagos or any other for the clearance of their items. Besides, they would act as port of origin for goods to be shipped out of the country.
To declare them as full ports, the Nigeria Customs Service, Immigration, State Security Service and other agencies of government that are hitherto connected with conventional goods clearing at sea ports will be located at each inland ports. The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, who confirmed the move to declare the ICDS as port of final destination and port of origin, said the people of Oshun and Kebbi States have also applied for ICD each as the Federal Government had already declared that of Kaduna as full time port.
According to him, it was easier for Kaduna ICD to be made a full fledge port because of its functionality and the presence of effective rail corridor. According to him, containers are now being transferred to the Inland Port, using rail line. He said other inland container depots (ICDs) will soon be declared as port of destination and origin, adding the process was on to give them the same status as that of Kaduna.
According to him, the seaports will henceforth serve as transit point for cargoes meant for the catchment areas of the inland ports. ‘‘This declaration has many implications. It will serve as a long-term solution to the perennial port congestion.
It will eliminate problems associated with storage and demurrage charges at the ports as goods meant for shippers in the particular ICD catchment areas will be taken off-dock for immediate transfer.”
According to the NSC boss, the new policy is expected to decongest ports access roads in Lagos to aid the disappearance of the gridlock that has affected businesses negatively in the metropolis. ‘‘There will be no more problem of storage and demurrage.
If we have inland ports and cargoes are transferred to them, the cost of transportation will be reduced; congestion on port access roads in Lagos will disappear, because trucks from these areas will no longer come to Lagos to take a queue on the roads. They will now be diverted to the ICD outside Lagos.
The trucks that will normally come to Lagos will have no reason to come to Lagos, but the inland ports at the hinterland.” The NSC helmsman was also optimistic that economic activities of the ICD host communities will tremendously improve because of cluster of businesses that will spring up in the areas.
‘‘The ICD will boost the economy of their host community because of the expected emergence of ancilliary services that will generate thousands of employment in the areas. There will be improved train transportation because we intend to move containers to the inland ports with train.
There will be businesses for warehouse owners, there will be other services as industries and industrial clusters will spring up in the area to generate employment. At the end, it will be a catalyst for economic growth of the areas where they are located. Nigeria will have proper sea ports that will only serve as transit for consignment against the present practice of using them as storage facilities,” he said.
Stakeholders, especially shippers, consider the move as novel. They appealed to the government to declare other inland ports as port of destination and port where export can take place.
The president, Rivers and Bayelsa Shippers Association, Ofon Udofia commended the Federal Government for the move to decongest the ports by moving them into the hinterland. ‘‘It will affect stakeholders positively because it will decongest the seaports and whether you like it or not, it will remove demurrage from the port system.
What is left now is for the government to come up with real framework for the Nigerian Shippers Council to work as the economic regulator for the sector. We are waiting for the government to declare the inland ports in other geo-political zones as port of destination and origin for goods.
This is a welcome development because more than 85 per cent of containers at Tin-Can Ports are meant for Onitsha, and Aba. The people there are more into commerce and want to maximize their profit. They decided to use Lagos for their goods because the ports in Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt are moribund.
The tariffs in these ports, especially Onne port, are high. We have given a document to Nigerian Shippers Council, where we stated clearly why the Warri and other ports are not working. If the Federal Government is serious, the shipper’s council should be given full power to operate as economic regulator.
If the NSC is given such power, the Nigerian Ports Authority will have no right to increase tariff as it has done since June. This increase will encourage goods diversion to the ports of neighbouring countries and smuggling.” He said ‘‘If the inland ports can function as full fledge ports and goods are ferried from Onne to the ICD, using small vessels and badges, the jetties in the South-South area will come alive again to generate employment for the youths.
He said goods would no longer be dumped at Onne port where tariffs are very high because of its designation as oil and gas cargoes port.
To Alex Adaelu, President of Abia State Shippers Association, the ICD and their declaration as full-fledged port will bring commercial activities to the hinterland, apart from thousands of jobs they will generate. ‘‘This is a welcome development because it portends good for the country.
It is an arrangement by the Federal Government to bring shipping activities to the hinterland. These ICDs are in the six geo-political zones of the country. Most of them have started functioning, others are yet to start. The one in Aba is yet to start operation because we are still synergizing with relevant authorities.
By the time it start functioning like a full port, it will create employment because goods will be transported by rail, from Onne to Isialangua. That facility alone can generate over 2,000 employments. Its catchment areas are Enugu, Onitsha, Makurdi and other commercial cities in some parts of the North.”
According to Adaelu, the Isialangua’s ICD has not taken off because of the inability of the state government to take up its 20 per cent counterpart funding for the ICD project. ‘‘We are working with the state government for its actualization. There is a concessionaire who is ready to take up 80 per cent funding for the project.
The other 20 per cent counterpart funding should come from the state government. We want to bring the concessionaire and the government to the table. We also want to bring in a Chinese investor to take over the 20 per cent counterpart funding of the state, if the state is not ready to take it up.
So very soon, the ICD at Isialangua will take off,” he said. The President of Borno and Yobe states Shippers Association, Alhaji Umaru Kolo, also commended the government for the move to decongest the seaports and to boost commercial activities in the hinterland, through the inland ports.
He said apart from creating employment, the ports will reduce the cost of shipping for the shippers as they will longer travel to Lagos for their shipping businesses. It is a good development because those of us in the hinterland are suffering. It will boost the economy of the locality where they are located and the cost of doing business will reduce, because we are paying N600, 000 for a truck to bring our container to us from Lagos.
We will also pay for hotel accommodation for as long as we stay in Lagos to clear our items. So if you take all these costs out, the goods will become cheaper and every body will be happy at the end of the day,” he said The Inland Container Deports are located in Ibadan, Funtua, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri and Isialanguan, Imo state and Kaduna The Kaduna Inland Container Depot had been declared by the government as port of origin and destination for goods.
Its declaration was in line with government gazette No 60 Volume 102 of May 26 and titled: ‘‘Kaduna Dry Port Declaration Order 2015.” Signed by the former Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, the port has now been upgraded from bonded terminal to dry port where imports and exports can be processed.
It has capacity for 29,000 containers per annum and ‘‘shall be a customs port in accordance with the provision of customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 law of the Federation of Nigeria 2014.
It is expected that the Kaduna Depot would have all the pre-requisites of an international ports, including Customs, immigration, port health officials and government security agencies.”
The idea of inland container deport and freight stations was initiated by the Nigerian Shippers Council to bring shipping services closer to the hinterland and the landlocked neighbouring countries with the sole aim of decongesting the ports.