Seaports are major facilitators of deal, and frequently described as the engine of economic development. They are also major generators of employment. The critical socio-economic and strategic importance of ports is even more pronounced in Africa, where over 60 per cent of the government’s revenue is generated through Customs duty and taxes.
As a matter of fact, the growth in container volumes and the concentration of container flows on a limited number of hubs, which derives, among other things, from the increasing vessel size, requires the development of new terminal infrastructure at ports able to handle the latest generation of vessels.
However, the efficiency of seaports is not guaranteed until there is easy movement of cargoes in and out of the ports, which turns out to be a clog in the wheel of progressive in ports system in Nigeria, and indeed Africa as a whole.The final destination of import cargoes or the origin of export cargoes passing through a port is what is generally referred to as the port’s hinterland.
In addition to the pressure that such vessels impose on the terminal cargo handling capabilities, it is often forgotten, that those larger vessels will also require higher capacity in hinterland transportation or a rationalization and better use of existing transport alternatives.
Those ports that are already plagued by inland congestion or that are located in the proximity of densely populated areas will have to come up with viable alternatives to reduce the impact of congestion and relieve local communities from the negative externalities generated by increasing cargo flows.
The development of new terminal infrastructure should then take into account the effects that increasing traffic volumes will have on the existing infrastructure and plan for expansion if necessary. As volumes increase, alternative modes of transport, such as rail or short-sea shipping are being promoted both to reduce both congestion and environmental impacts.
In the specific case of Nigeria and the new development associated with the Apapa Ports and other ports project in the country, it is imperative to carefully plan the development of the hinterland infrastructure. This is not only necessary to ensure that the investment yields adequate economic benefit; it must also maximise the social and environmental sustainability of the project.
Industry watchers has maintained that the critical role that container infrastructure plays in favouring the economic development of a country or region is well established. Infrastructure is the necessary condition for efficient cargo handling operations and adequate infrastructure is needed to avoid congestion, foster trade development as well as securing deep-sea container connectivity for economies heavily dependent on international trade.
Container infrastructure, however, needs to be complemented by efficient hinterland transport connections if the port is to fully exploit its potential as growth catalyst and supply chain node
Lamentably, it is not uncommon for development projects to focus exclusively on enhancing the infrastructural capabilities of the port, without adequate consideration of the hinterland connections. The urgency of looking at port and terminal development in conjunction to their hinterland connectivity is exacerbated by the pressure on container terminals to increase their performance levels resulting from the rapid growth of containerised cargo traffic flows and their increased variability.
Interestingly, the Nigerian Ports Authority and other stakeholders in the maritime industry are worried about a number of issues limiting business activities at the various ports in Africa as well as challenges facing hinterland connectivity on the continent. Thus, hosted a wonderful International Association of Ports and Harbours Africa Regional Conference in Abuja recently which addressed various issues and challenges facing the industry.
The conference addressed four key categories, which are ports/hinterland connectivity components, modal options, funding options for hinterland connectivity – hard and soft infrastructure, Africa’s ports landscape, infrastructure, governance models, landlocked transit corridors, sustainability and facilitation of the logistics and transport supply chain.
Also, the conference assessed the present landscape of Africa’s ports sector and the challenges faced in hinterland connectivity; discussed the experiences of ports/ hinterland connectivity in other parts of the world compared to Africa; explore possible critical solutions, and recommend best home-grown models that will enable Africa to improve on its ports/ hinterland connectivity and intra-regional trade.”
The African development report, said: “It is well-established that efficiency at ports is crucial to the overall efficiency of the transport logistics chain. However, a port is only as good, and its development only as viable as the transport networks linking the ports to centres of production and consumption (the hinterland).”
Also, a recent report produced by the OECD/International Transport Forum, noted that no matter how much capacity a port can handle, it cannot be utilised to its full potential as long as the connecting road or rail network is not equipped to handle similar cargo volumes.
captivatingly, stakeholders at the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) conference, , agreed that the continent should explore the hinterland transport system, learn from global experiences, and design local solutions to effectively create a smooth and efficient connectivity between its seaports and their hinterlands.
According to the stakeholders , Ports are strategic national assets; and for economies to grow in the right direction, there is need for investments in port and evacuation infrastructure to facilitate hinterland connectivity; Connectivity for economic growth, expansion and integration should be viewed from the perspective of domestic, sub-regional, continental and international trade domain; There is need to develop sustainable multi-modal transport linkages with emphasis on rail, inland waterways and pipeline infrastructure;
They noted that to overcome the cumbersome and difficult experiences on intra-Africa trade route occasioned by heavy infrastructural deficit and unfriendly border post procedures, there is need for Ministerial/ inter-Government collaborations across sub and regional levels; thus; all African countries need to leverage on the support platforms provided by international bodies such as the IMO, WTO, UNCTAD, ACMA and others to build technical, financial and operational competence and capacity to raise standards and efficiency levels.
They canvassed that to encourage funding, port service providers are encouraged to form viable consortiums to provide the required size for credit guarantees; Promotion of the use of ICDs and off-dock facilities as a measure of promoting hinterland connectivity and African ports are encouraged to develop the right capacity to take investment opportunities in landlocked countries.
In addition, need for African ports to adopt best practices in terms of human capacity and expertise; development of capacity building in ICT and port community systems to improve efficiency and reduce corruption; take advantage of opportunities afforded by infrastructural financial institutions such as AfDB, ADF and NTF to access funds required to address the menace of infrastructural deficits is also a key area for the industry.
They also decided to consider measures aimed at sustainable environmental protection as the ports and transportation network develop in response to increasing demands of logistics, connectivity and regional integration; need to operate within the prescription of the FAL convention to mitigate border post problems and associated delays and connectivity restrictions; need for sustained promotion of the ideals/ objectives of Corridor Management Institutions (CMIs) as promoted by ACMA; require to build models that will domesticate environmental compliance processes with regard to the peculiarity of the African situation; call for for African ports to develop capacities for standards that are comparable to global best practice; Introduction and strengthening of private sector participation (PPP) to improve dilapidated port infrastructure and efficiency in port operations; and Creating awareness and taking measures to mitigate the negative effects of marine pollution and environmental degradation that could harm the population.
They are of the opinion that motivating the ports to pursue agenda that will facilitate ISO compliance in line with current trend on standardization and best practices and countries need to look into the possibilities of partnering to develop regional deep-sea ports; The need for cooperation and synergy between littoral ports and dry ports in the African region to improve hinterland connectivity.
They called on African states to give incentives and prioritizing services rendered to dry ports to create volume traffic as seen in the case between Dakar Port Authority and Bamako Port in Mali;also encourage women integration and capacity building in the maritime sector and Strengthen corporate social responsibilities between the ports and ports community through incentive packages that will make the communities ambassadors of ports
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari advocated the effective deployment of improved port infrastructure across all countries within the continent in order to maximize maritime potentials within the territory.He submitted that the linkage of port operation to the hinterland by multi modal transport techniques would result in the commendable economic growth and improved standard of living of the people.
He therefore charged stakeholders to synergize and collaborate with one another stressing that inter-connectivity would infer in great enabling environment and frontier for competitive edges if well managed. He added that the availability of standard rail lines and effective road networks amongst others would result in plausible African prosperity across board. “the same level of serious attention is being given the improved road infrastructure”.
The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi stated that Government is committed to the deployment of multi transportation modes of operation in the sector, by way of improved rail services and other supply chains to the Hinterland.
“With the development of the inland dry port in Kano and Kaduna, with the direct rail connection also, cargoes and containers are easily transported to Northern Nigeria”. “We are partnering with the government of Niger Republic in the construction of Maradi from Kano to promote regional motivation of trade and inter connectivity”. He stated
In addition, the African Regional Vice President (IAPH), Hadiza Bala Usman who also is the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said that Africa definitely has a place of pride amidst the fact that 39 out of the 54 countries in the continent are endowed with littoral assets calling for optimal exploitation of these vast maritime dividends.
The NPA MD enjoined operators within the continent to imbibe best practices in the areas of speed of operation in service delivery as well as adopting of new techniques amongst others reiterated that IAPH from inception had helped promote port development across the world through Synergy and Collaboration for efficient and effective port operations and shipping activities.
Similarly, she stressed that members of the Association leverage on one another’s technical expertise in line with best practices pointing out that the use of barges, inland water ways, the efficient utilization of dry ports and the deployment of pipelines for the evacuation of cargoes across African ports and indeed the world over is the route to go should we want to compare within the comity of Nations.
Nigeria’s Minister for Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelama, said when planning a seaport, three level-game should be given due consideration. They include: domestic economy; regional economy, and the global economy games.
Enelama, who was represented by Chiedu Osakwe, said: “Our ports are strategic national assets, without them, it will neither be possible to grow, create jobs, nor will it be possible to globalise economy.”He appreciated the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for the exceptional reforms in the ports system, urging stakeholders to support the reforms.
The Deputy Director, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Frederic Agha, urged that ports hinterland connectivity and transports logistics be addressed to improve competitiveness, adding that WTO, through its agreements, can help with the ease of cargo clearance at seaports.
“If properly implemented, it will enhance efficiency, combat corruption, promote good governance, and cut down trade cost significantly. You may have the best ports but if you don’t connect the hinterland it will not work,” he stated.
Agha added that, “many African countries have made progress in building robust maritime and hinterland infrastructure in recent years, but from our experience, there are still much progress to be made, and WTO is ready to support you.”
Hassiba Benamara of the Transport Section, Trade Logistics Branch, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said Africa’s seaborne trade is about seven per cent (loaded) of the global trade five per cent (unloaded), according to 2017 figures.She put the continent’s projected growth at 5.5 between 2017 and 2022.
Benamara, analysing a new report from the agency, said transport cost in Africa is currently the highest in the world, and urged agencies to take up measures that would promote improvement in the transport connectivity.
The Managing Director, IAPH, Patrick Verhoeven, said improving the hinterland connections is not merely a matter of “hardware”; it is also about investing in “software” such as people, skills, and Information Technology.
He said: “With 50 per cent of Africa’s 1.2 billion people under the age of 20, and expected workforce of 504 million by 2020, ensuring that the ports attracted the right talents as well as making the best use of innovations in digitalisation, and use of big data is of equal significance.”
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