The need to improve the physical infrastructure of the Nigerian seaports , increase their capacity to accommodate bigger vessels as well as upgrade the drafts at the quayside to 14 meters among others, has informed the $1.1 billion Port rehabilitation being proposed by the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA).
The Authority has likewise launched the $1.1 billion exercise to enhance the competitiveness of the Nigerian seaports and undertake a comprehensive automation of their processes and procedures to enable them, to be more efficient and be fully equipped to take their rightful, place as the hub of the ports in West and Central Africa.
It will be recalled that the NPA Managing Director, Muhammed Bello Koko who had revealed this in a panel session at the recently concluded 43rd Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) conference,in Lagos , had added that almost every port in Nigeria is old and requires rehabilitation, but that the rehabilitation will start with the Tin-Can and Apapa Ports in Lagos.
The NPA plans to kick off the rehabilitation process at the Lagos seaports of Apapa and Tin Can because, they harbor Quay aprons, that have been dilapidated ,while their facilities and some of those in Rivers and Calabar Ports , can no longer withstand the remedial works being carried out on them , for the fact that they have existed for over 70 years , beyond their 50 years lifespan , before they are rehabilitated.
But as it concerns the full automation of the ports operations in the country , the current management has since its inception adopted deliberate measures of undertaking investments , with a view to creating , a fully digital ecosystem in all the port locations by 2025.
This is hinged on its conviction that a digitalised port helps in making better informed operational decisions, increases efficiency, improves collaboration amongst stakeholders, and lower port costs as well as assist to meet the ever increasing customer expectations in a timely manner.
This is why the Bello Koko- led management has already gone deep into the process of deploying at the Ports, what is called the Ports Community System(PCS), which is an electronic platform , that will link all the stakeholders in the Port system for purpose of communication and enhancement of delivery and clearing of goods.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) , which is the Consultant to the NPA ,has paid the fees to the technical consultant on the project for the first and second phases, as it offered to do, while the project is set to enter the third stage.
Already, in the first and second stages of the project , the NPA has been able to get the stakeholders in the maritime industry, from the shipping lines to the freight forwarders, terminal operators, users of the ports, Standards Organisation of Nigeria(SON), among others to deliberate with the technical consultant with a view to bringing them all to the Platform.
Consequently , the consultant has studied what each one of the aforementioned agencies has in place in terms of IT deployment and automation, while in the next stage , which is the third stage , it will do an analysis of what is needed to be able to deploy the PCS.
Invariably, the plan of the NPA management is for the PCS to serve as a catalyst for the National Single Window, which is a Platform that is superior to the PCS and which enables trade facilitation and speeds up the processes of documentation for importers and exporters .
Though the NPA MD did not explain how the fund to prosecute the projects would be sourced , but indications are that it would still resort to borrowing from international lending institutions .
The international lending institutions that have been considered by the NPA include the French Development Agency(AFD), African Development Bank(AfDB), European Investment Bank(EIB), among others, but the NPA management might have opted for the African Export- Import Bank(AFREXIM) for a loan put at about $800 million as at last year, while the depreciating value of the naira must have increased the loan to $1.1 billion.
The idea was that the NPA will borrow the money for a period of about 10 years, with three years moratorium, meaning that provisions that would be made for the payment of that loan, would make the repayment to kick off, in 2027, if the loan scales through in 2024.
The management had also earlier considered using part of the NPA revenue for the project , a situation , which would however reduced its contributions to the CRF, a development , which made the management to opt for the loan option .