By Okezie Nnadi
Even though the $1.5billion Lekki Deep Seaport is highly automated, the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) has stressed the need for compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) contained in the Nigerian Ports Process Manual (NPPM) especially as it concerns boarding of vessels by government agencies and the quick evacuation of cargoes from the port.
The PSTT is a creation of the Presidency, domiciled under the Nigerian Shippers Council as port economic regulator.
National Cordinator of PSTT, Comrade Moses Fadipe who led top members of the Task Team on a working visit to the Lekki Port on Wednesday said that the Federal Government has zero tolerance for corruption in boarding of vessels.
According to him, the PSTT through its strict boarding processes has saved vessels demurrage to the tune of N5.4billion.
He said that before the establishment of PSTT in year 2020, Nigeria had 121 infractions on vessel boarding, and vessel pays 20,000USD every day for delay. He however said that this has reduced to zero through efforts of the Task Team.
He tasked the port operator to create a work station for the PSTT officials who are going to be present at the port according to the practice in all Nigerian ports.
Comrade Fadipe charged the Lekki Port operator that boarding of vessels by government agencies must be carried out in tandem with timelines stipulated in SOP of the NPPM.
He said that for a vessel calling at the Lekki Port, it is expected to be moored within thirty minutes and that Port Health officials are the first to go onboard for inspection.
“There is need to control human elements and checkmate them, when the government agencies first board a vessel, if there is no infraction, we expect them to be done between thirty minutes, if not, they must disembark and let us know why, not for them to just remain onboard.
“When Port Health officials are going onboard, it is for thirty minutes, while that is going on, we expect Immigration and Customs to be ready to board jointly, this is why NPA is mandated to provide the Joint Boarding Bus which would be used to convey officials from a place you are going to dedicate for us as a muster point.
“At the muster point, whatever they might be having on them would be kept safely, only their identification or working tools would go onboard with them in a transparent jacket. There must be no souvenir, the way you go is how you come back.
“In tandem with ISPS Code, all agencies and officials must register their names as they are going onboard and the amount of time spent, the PSTT would be coming from time to time check if they are in order. If we see any infractions on the part of any agency, then you would walk into our net.
“For the joint boarding exercise, only two customs officers and three immigration officers are allowed, and they have a maximum of thirty minutes, if for any reason they have to spend beyond that, they have to disembark. The idea is that the vessel operations must not be delayed.
“The NDLEA, NIMASA and others can board at their convenience and we don’t expect them to spend more than thirty minutes. There is going to be a feedback form, because there is a group called Maritime Anti-Corruption Network based on Copenhagen where we party with them as PSTT and Nigerian Shippers Council, and all what I am telling you is practiced on all vessels all over the world, it is zero tolerance for corruption.
“There is a platform where we operate and these vessels communicate with us in real time, so whatever is going on at your port, they report back to us” he said
Speaking on terminal operations within the Lekki Port, Comrade Fadipe said the PSTT is concerned about effective cargo turnaround time.
According to him, the terminal operators must endeavor to position containers overnight.
“By 8.am, no container would be positioned again. We expect the customs to coordinate this process with all agencies participating in joint examination of cargoes, it commence at 10am and stops by 4pm.
“We are concerned about evacuation of cargoes from the port, and how it would affect the cost of doing business. We have noticed the ongoing road construction and the wideness of the roads to accommodate trucks is a concern” he said
The PSTT Boss further interrogated the conduct of the government agencies present at the port, saying that there must be an electric platform where vessels transmit manifest before getting to the port, without all agencies necessarily flooding the vessel for checks.
Responding, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited (LPLEL) – the promoters of Lekki Deep Sea Port, Mr Daniel Odibe assured that, despite the number of government agencies present at the port, the automation nature of the port is to streamline their human contact.
“We have the portal scanners which makes it faster to scan a container, you can drive through the scanner under 33-seconds. This is sufficient for the amount of cargoes we plan to handle within the next few years of our phase one.
We hope that if every agency keys into that, it would create an efficient means of examination” he said.
Also responding, Manager/ HSE & Community Liaison Officer of Lekki Port, Adurayemi Ogundele said the port is exploring the option of evacuating cargoes by barges and in future by rail network.
He also assured that Lekki Port was designed to be a trans-shipment hub for cargoes in west and Central Africa and that engagements are in top gear to bring this to reality.
On cargo evacuation, he said “We have been discussing with a company that has ocean-going barges, we have had one or two operations and it was quite satisfactory.
The roads constructions are currently ongoing while some have been completed.
“At the construction stage of this port, it is known that it would be a transshipment hub for the country.
There was a minute three weeks ago on transshipment of cargoes, there has been some signified interests, everything is in progress, the first of these meetings was held at our office at Victoria Island.
So, for trans-shipment, it is work in progress, and at the end of the day, we would achieve our aim”