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Apapa’ll be port to beat in 5 months – NPA MD
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Mallam Abdulsalam Mohammed, believes that services being offered at Apapa, in Lagos, to stakeholders, especially in shipping would emerge the best that can be found within the sub region within the next five months. He also emphasized in a chat with Dele Aderibigbe, the importance of attitudinal change at the nation’s maritime industry. Excerpts:
How would you score the ports industry in terms of performance?
In accessing the performance of the ports in recent time, I would like to access us in terms of strategies, rather that strictly in performance. I would prefer looking at performance as relative to what it was six or more years ago, relative to its potentials. And at which point I would say that the port system has witnessed some modest achievements; but at the same time, there is still a lot of rooms for serious improvement.
To get this better, let us look at the ports in terms of productivity indicators: what was the waiting time of ships before, and what is currently the waiting time of vessels? What was the volume being handled before and what is the current volume?
What is the performance of labour both along and in the terminal? And what is the average dwelt time of cargo?
Waiting time at a given time especially for vessels getting into Apapa was in average of more than three weeks before. Currently, it is less than one day. To me, that is a major improvement. To the shipping lines, that is a major savings. At a given time, a cargo consigned to Nigeria was attracting some extra charges; because the delay in getting into Apapa. This is no longer applicable. Turnaround time of vessels has significantly improved- at least in terms of number of days.
However, cargo dwelt time has not achieved any major improvement especially in terms of days of the number of days your container can stay in the port. From an average of about 30 days in Apapa, you currently have about 21 days or so.
But, this is dependent on several factors; the attitude of the consignee; since the cargo cannot get out except the consignee makes an effort to get it out. Bureaucracy in the system is also a factor. So, in terms of statistical data, relating to port efficiency, we have witnessed significant achievements.
The sizes of the vessels that we are also handling due to our dredging related activities, wreck removal activities are also significantly increasing. So, we are handling bigger and bigger vessels, especially in the Lagos area and in the Bonny channel. And with that, we are getting more and more competitive in the sub region and consequently taking our rightful place as a port of choice in the sub region. But, to assume that all is perfect is to deceive oneself.
So, what area do you think urgent attention is needed?
I think there should be serious improvement in the area of service delivery. And we also need to improve in the area of pricing, and do whatever we can to eliminate bureaucracy to the barest minimum.
So, if you add up all these achievements and add them up to what I feel should be done, then you will have Nigerian port not only with a competitive advantage but the port to beat. My joy, however, is that we are already moving there; and by the first quarter of 2011, we shall be there in Apapa, at least, in terms of service delivery to the big ocean going vessels, matched against any other ports within the West and Central African sub region; and even surpass most of them.
You seem to place emphasis on potentials or un-realized potentials which call for closer examination sir.
You will understand that Nigeria is a country of so much unrealized potentials when you look at all the parameters for growth; for in them all, we have key advantages in the Maritime sector. We have a reason to be the ideal hub port.
We have the largest market in West and Central Africa. We have the largest population, in the sub region. We also have the largest economy. We are centrally located in Africa. Our human resource capacity is the best in Africa in terms of quality of manpower. And Nigeria is not a country faced with natural disasters.
Our natural resources are enormous, and the potential for growth for these natural resources are also enormous.
So, as a maritime nation, we should be the leading maritime country in the sub region; and one of the leading maritime nations. We are yet to reach that destination. But we are on our way towards there already.
We have so much potential; and yet we are still far to destination. Why?
Part of the reason is that we have failed to seek out the right strategies, in realizing our potential for moving up to our desired destination.
As NPA, what are you doing in this direction?
We have identified about three major things that we must do: Infrastructure needs to be improved- both in terms of rehabilitation and development of new ones. And that is why we currently have major infrastructural projects as on-going. We also have so many infrastructural projects on the process of approval.
Secondly, we believe we must embark on service training and retraining programme for our people to enable them to perform their responsibility in a more efficient manner capable of matching best practices anywhere in the world.
Thirdly, we are working on reorientation, so as to effect an attitudinal change which goes beyond the issue of Servicom. The goal of Servicom is to ensure that our services are consistent with customer expectation. But the issue of attitudinal change we have in mind and are presently working on relates to a particular pattern of behavior.
If you have been used to doing things in a particular manner, if you have been used to thinking in particular manner, and which has retarded our growth, then we may need to re-appraise such and improve on them.
If you have your way, what would you change or what is one thing that if you do, would impart greater on the port or maritime industry?
Attitude. I would change most people’s attitude to that which will positively allow us to optimise our potentials. I would change the people’s attitude into something that will make operators look at the potential of the ports and the potential of businesses, either at the government level or individual private organisation level.
Perhaps, I should start by asking you whether you believe this country has the potential to be great as a nation. If people can change their attitude, then we can realize our potentials. If they realize their potentials, then they can have it as a dream. The real problem is that if you cannot dream it then you cannot work towards it. As a port authority, I would like to see the ports in Nigeria playing a role as one of the three most dominant ports in Africa.
But the first challenge is whether we can dream to see our ports become the model port in Africa in terms of performance and ports efficiency.
I know we have the potentials. But do we have the dream? And is our attitude portraying or betraying that dream?
I wish to see the shipping companies in Nigeria emerge as a hub port- an ideal target.
We have exceptional advantages, begging to be harnessed in Nigeria. But is everybody working toward harnessing the advantages?
Our attitudinal change would enable us see our ‘clearing’ agents work in all diligence and honesty towards this dream. It would make them become major players, not only in Nigeria, but in the sub-region.
If we change our attitude, just our attitude, Nigeria can become a model in all port operations. And I wish journalists that cover the Maritime sector will also be better informed about port related activities not only in Nigeria, but around the world!
With the benefits of democracy and the port reforms, has there been a corresponding growth in the ports industry? Do we now have any remarkable growths in the sector now even if we are lacking in the right attitudinal traits?
Yes. We indeed to see a sectorial growth; only that the growth does not match our potentials. I wish we can all dream big that will elicit a ‘remarkable’ growth. Unless we change our attitude, we are not likely to dream big.
I wish Nigeria can become a major centre of Industrial activities and the port as a major gate-way to the African continent.
Take a look at the oil industry; can you look at our reserve and our production capacity? One single look and you know it is the same problem here that we have there- the lack of dreams and the absence of the right strategy!
If we have the right strategy, we are already a major producer of crude, why can’t we become a major producer of refined petroleum related products? And become a major exporter of other petroleum related products!
Can you imagine the huge business opportunities that simple feat would open for us? Can you then imagine the huge opportunities that would come to the port?
Can you imagine what would be the purchasing power of a buoyant 140 million people and how this can impact on the port?
For instance, if each person would need a pair of shoe a year, that is already, 140 million pair of shoes; then 140 million people’s needs in term of shirts, foods, add it to their transport need, etc.
So, if we can try and get the right kind of attitude, and entrench a desired business environment, you can then begin to imagine what Nigeria can be- and then, what the ports in Nigeria can be! Everybody would be so busy in one activity or the other. Several would be terminal operators; several would be suppliers to ships as chandlers, etc.
Now, can you again imagine Nigeria as a major bunkering nation? I know once you mention ‘bunkering’; many people assume it’s an illegal operation or business. Yet, ships that come to Nigeria have fuel needs!
We are a major producer of crude, but are we a major supplier of the energy needs of the ships that come into Nigeria? Can you imagine the accruable dividends from just that area alone? Or the food needs of the ships crew; add it to a growing benefits of ship repairs, container handling, the transport needs to the inter-land; via rails, inland waterways, and roads?
Can you imagine the business opportunities that would be opened up? Every truck needs tyres and also fuel; every ship that comes into Nigeria would need fuel or refuel; but is there any facility that you know in Nigeria that is dedicated to supplying fuel to each of the ships that serve Nigeria?
These opportunities are presently lying in the drain.Share