Steve Agbota

The Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers Council (NCS), Mr. Bello Hassan, has said the maritime industry would become the largest contributor to budget funding in no distant time.

Speaking when the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, led a team on a visit to the NSC corporate headquarters in Lagos, Hassan commendedn the  newspaper organisation for its dedication and seriousness towards vital news gathering on politics and more importantly on the economy.

He described The Sun as an influential newspaper in the country.

“I read almost all the newspapers every day. Like we old people, we don’t read online but read the hard copy. Even my son sometimes makes a joke out of my hard copy reading habit, wondering why I should be clutching copies of newspapers when I can equally read them online,” he said.

“The Sun has became one of my favourite newspapers because it has an economic section, where we gather a lot of  insightful information. It is a very serious newspaper,  which is influential. Its editorial policy is also progressing. The most important thing is The Sun’s dedication to maritime industry where we operate.”

According to him, The Sun understands the importance of the maritime sector as an industry that should be explored more than oil and gas, in an effirt to diversify the economy.

“And that is what we are trying to do. We want to reposition the maritime industry to make Nigeria competitive within the context of the global economy.”

Hassan said  Nigeria needs modern transport infrastructure, especially at the ports.According to him,  the Lekki port has become the cynosure of all eyes, because it has  the required draft that could accommodate bigger ships, which is an advantage to the economy of scale of shipping.

He pointed out that Nigeria must have seamless transport system that will link all its ports , saying it is the only way the economy will grow.

He disclosed that Apapa ports that was built in the 80s with a combined capacity of 30 million metric tonnes now handles about 84 million metric tonnes, a development that exposed Nigeria’s lack of proper planning.

Hassan said as far back as  1980s, Nigeria should have projected that by 2019, the population would have hit over 180 million considering the United Nation projection of population growth, which is 2.6 per annum.

He queried: “So why didn’t we change the infrastructure. I’m not even talking about the ports, but I’m talking about modern transport or evacuation of cargo from the ports. We increasingly became unimode if you like or one mode, which is the road. So, that cannot be possible with increase capacity

“But this is the same road, you cut off the rail, cut off Inland waterways and you cut off the pipeline and you are still maintaining that same way.”

Hassan  explained that it is important Nigeria build more ports, to increase in the the capacity to do business.   He said Nigeria was naturally endowed with the resource to be great.

“Nigeria is the only country that can boast of having 80,000 kilometres of shoreline in Africa and 195,000 square kilometres of vast hinterland. Only that we don’t have time zone, from Lagos to Maiduguri, we are supposed to create a chain of employment,  a chain of industries, giving and taking. And transport is the live wire of every economy.

“So, it is important we look at the context and see what Shippers Council is doing. Shippers Council will want to diversify the mode. We are insisting that transportation should not only be by road, but by rail. Government has heard our cry, they are linking every ports with rail including the dry ports.”

Hassan said the Shippers Council created the notion of dry ports to decongest the ports in Lagos by freighting  goods brought through the sea via trains and roads to other states where the dry ports are sited.

“We are promoting the use of Nigerian ports. Maybe people don’t know we are in competition with ports all over our region. We want our ports to be efficient. We have designed and are enforcing standard of operations at the ports, using  the terminal operators so that we know their standard and look at it everyday to review and audit their performance.

“We want our ports to be efficient, competitive and we want our ports to be reasonably priced because these are the things that will make a shipper to nominate another port instead of Nigeria ports. It is an economic decision. So if our ports are competitive,  which means the turnaround time for ships is at least regional average. The dwell time, which is 22 days now, we want to make it seven days. But for the infrastructure gaps, which we are facing, at one time; two, three years ago, Nigerian ports were gaining on its competitors,” he said.

Earlier, The Sun Managing Director, Onuoha Ukeh, commended the Executive Secretary and management  of Nigerian Shippers Council for their contributions to the growth of the maritime sector.

Ukeh said the NSC was working quietly to ensure the socio-economic development of the country.

“Nigerian Shippers Council does a lot of things for this country quietly. The Executive Secretary and his management team are the big voice of progressive and development in the sector.

“I want to commend you and to ask that you to continue doing the good work that has repositioned the NSC and made the maritime sector more result oriented.  Nigeria is at a critical time, where all the sectors, individuals and organisations have to do their very best to cause a turn around in the country.

“The current government said the country is moving to the next level. We can only move to the next level when we play our roles as individuals and organisations with commitment and dedication.”

He said The Sun considers the Nigerian Shippers Council as a critical partner in the uplift of Nigeria.