At JournalNG summit, maritime stakeholders harp on essence of automation to blue economy

By Edu Abade

Stakeholders of the Nigerian maritime industry have brainstormed on the essence of automation to a productive blue economy, insisting that the deployment of automation has enabled the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to enhance its operations leading to increase in exports from 30 percent to 35 percent throughput in the last three years.

Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, who spoke at the third JournalNG Port Industry Town Hall meeting in Lagos with the theme: “Essence of Automation to Productive Blue Economy” said: “For our total throughput for Apapa Port, we have about 35 percent export. Since 2021, export moved steadily from 30 percent and increased further in 2022.

“This is attributable to the establishment of the NPA Export Processing Terminals to eliminate factors that impede logistics and ease of doing export business. We must also note that we have enjoyed port stakeholders’ buy-in and support from several government agencies.

“It is also worthy to note that the presidency through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has played a key role in driving this agenda with NPA.”

Bello-Koko, who was represented at the event by the Manager of Apapa Port, Charles Okaga, also pointed out that Export Processing Terminals presently enjoy technologically enhanced connectivity to ports and other infrastructure like Truck Transit Parks (TTPs), which simplify the access to ports and eliminates delays that led to expired Agro-Exports in the past.

He explained that vessels waiting time at the berths has been reduced to a few hours, describing this as a major development from the former 1-6 day waiting time.

Also speaking, the immediate past Area Controller, Kirikiri Lighter Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Timi Bomodi stressed that Nigeria’s hope of attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into the blue economy sector would not be realised without adequate data to guide investments.

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Bomodi, however, noted that automation could be channeled towards collating such vital data to guide local investments, government policies and ultimately attract FDIs.

He, however, admonished all port stakeholders to develop and publish their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and ensure they adhere to these SOPs to avail port users a high degree of certainty on port processes.

On his part, the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, expressed concern that the rapid introduction of technology and innovations in the maritime domain will lead to massive job losses.

He advised the relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that such technological advancements are not at the expense of maritime workers.

Also speaking, Publisher of JournalNG and convener of the summit, Ismail Aniemu, said the forum is expected to set the tone for a credible and viable maritime agenda for the maritime industry.

“Today we have a Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, but the concept of this year’s theme was prepared several months ago. At that time, we never knew that the government would create a Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy out of the existing Transport Ministry.

“Nevertheless, we know that in blue economy there are numerous low-hanging fruits for economic diversification in Nigeria. Stakeholders and experts in this industry have used this talk shop to project their views which are encapsulated as recommendations for the government to consider. We should also maximise the advantages of the mass media to propagate the issues emanating from the summit,” he stated.

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