ABUJA: Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, yesterday, said Nigeria was bleeding through financial losses as a result of under declaration of goods at the ports.
Disclosing this in Lagos during a courtesy visit by a team of Editors, Hassan said it was only a fully automated port industry that could truly checkmate the financial haemorrhaging that had plagued the nation’s ports.
According to him, an automated port system would open up the maritime sector and reduce the menace of corruption occasioned by an uncoordinated port operations.
He said port automation would also eliminate human interface and block revenue leakages and noted that if the Nigerian maritime industry was well coordinated, Nigeria could earn more revenue from the sector then the oil and gas.
The Executive Secretary explained that more than 80% of cargoes imported into the country were under declared, lamenting that there was a lot of tax evasion at the ports at the moment.
Besides the issue of corruption, Bello said an automated maritime sector would bring about an efficient port system that would reduce cargo dwell and turnaround time for vessels that berthed at the nation’s port.
He said “We are in the process of creating a port community system and entrenching a new port order, this is time for openness.
“Nigeria and Nigerians have been trading without ethics, automation will bridge all these gaps. We are working at promoting an open maritime industry, once you put a good system in place, it is like putting on the light and darkness will disappear. We are working at creating an environment where you can sit on your table and clear your goods without going to the port, without any human contact.
“The terminal operators, Customs and every stakeholder will be hooked onto the system. You can see everything, payments that are made, how the business is affecting the economy, how much we have got, who is doing what, who is responsible for what act etc. We are working with other agencies to actualize this. We want to start with the standard operating procedures of every agency operating at the port because that is where the whole thing begins. Why should immigration go on board a ship and stay for two hours when they can do that for five minutes?
We are collecting the operating procedures from all the organisations, we are compiling them, the moment we complete it we are going to put them online so that everyone will know who does what at the port.
Through automation, whatever the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, does at its head office is seen at the central command office of the automated system. We could see what goods are coming and therefore they would be no need for physical examination because we have the International Cargo Tracking Note, ICTN, and we have a command and control system where we can see the whole operation going on at the ports.