Port Operations in Nigeria, which include the totality of handling, managing and regulating vessels, cargo equipment, vehicles, warehousing facilities utilized in the transporting of cargo or passengers, and the maintenance of these facilities and infrastructures, have gained so much momentum, with several stakeholders involved in its operation in Nigeria. However, it is quite sad that due to the setbacks it has been facing on all squares, it has had an adverse effect on its operation.
Here’s a view of some of the numerous challenges impeding the functionality of the maritime sector in Nigeria;

1) Undue delay of import and export processes: A delay in the process of importation and exportation negatively affects Port Operations in Nigeria. This delay can be due to a lingering in money transfer between financial institutions, cargo discharge delay at port terminals and storage facilities, setback from the handling company or warehousing sorting.

2) Traffic Congestion: This is another challenge affecting the maritime sector. A delay in the import and export process can lead to a delay in clearing of goods which can lead to traffic congestion and stall operations. Modernized ports are known to be transit area and holding bay, it’s quite sad we don’t have that in Nigerian ports yet. Lagos ports are currently congested due to the high number of warehouses and residential homes that exist around the ports. Port congestion occurs in situations where vessels arriving at a port for the aim of cargo or other similar operation, is unable to berth and so, has to wait outside at anchorage for a berth to be made available. Port congestion may occur due to the following;

a) Port terminal booked to more than its capacity
b) Bad weather causing delays leading to vessels lining up outside
c) Pandemics
d) Industrial actions
e) Decrease in productivity
f) Inadequate port facilities and equipments
g) Restricted port access
h) Vessel bunching
I) Location of port
j) Trade wars
k) Hinterland connections.
Similarly, bad road networks, stifling transit procedures, inefficient logistics systems and poor
infrastructure are contributory factors to the traffic congestion experienced in Nigerian ports.

3) Regulatory and Legal Issues: The increasing regulations, laws and policies guiding the Port Operations in Nigeria have somewhat impeded on its smooth operations as some of these regulations are repressing.

4) Bad road networks and security concerns: The dilapidated roads leading to the seaports as well as security issues such as sea robbery, piracy, illegal bunkers has negatively affected the maritime industry in Nigeria.

5) Clumsy Cargo Clearance Process: The clumsy nature of cargo clearance process has posed a challenge to its operation in Nigeria. The clearance process starts with ship berthing and then to boarding, offloading to designated areas, to payment of duties and terminal charges. As a result of this, several cargoes are stuck, waiting to be cleared which has led to traffic congestion in and around the ports.

6) Inefficient Infrastructure: Inefficient port and shipping infrastructure is another issue that affects the maritime sector. Infrastructural facilities such as ports, terminals, cargo handling equipment, channels & harbours, port access roads, intermodal transport systems, information and communication technologies (ICTs) are inadequate and/or inefficient and that creates an impediment to the functionality of the ports in Nigeria.

7) Inadequate Financing: Port operations is capital-base, therefore requiring a lot of capital, particularly in a bid to increasing private sector participation in the industry. However, scarcity of funds has affected its operations.

8) Transportation and Logistics: Sea freight transportation is the slowest transport medium, particularly in comparison to air freights. However, with transportation challenges and poor logistics facilitation, it makes the situation even worse. Cargo congestion at the Apapa Port and logistics incompetence has led to an inefficient port operation in Nigeria.

9) High Import Duty: Port operators in Nigeria are charged high import duties and tariffs which makes it difficult to have a smooth operation of its ports in the country.

10) Corruption and Bureaucratic Bottlenecks: Port operations in Nigeria are constantly laced with bureaucratic red tape, frequent delays and illegal charges leading to high cost of operations. Corruption affects virtually every sector in the country, the maritime inclusive.

11) Mediocrity/Lack of Succession Plan: When mediocrity and incompetence becomes a norm, it negatively affects the quality of work outcome and this is the case with the maritime industry in Nigeria. Similarly, a lack of succession plan has given rise to ineptitude in leadership of the industry.

12) Ineptitude: Ineptitude is a major challenge facing the maritime industry in Nigeria. Incompetence from the top to the bottom has affected port operations.

13) Unfriendly Operational Environment: An unfriendly operational environment hinders the success of the industry and operations.

Solutions to these challenges
1) Creating a formidable leadership of the industry.: Creating a formidable leadership with keen interest, zeal and due diligence targeted towards improving the maritime sector is crucial. A number of private companies have taken steps in identifying problems faced in the Industry and are tirelessly working towards solving them, which is a welcome development. The maritime industry needs leaders with zero tolerance for corruption, ineptitude and mediocrity. Leadership is not just a buzzword, it should be put in practice at ensuring that the industry is totally revamped. Individuals and stakeholders operating in the industry require good leadership skills and training.

2) To reduce traffic congestion in the port and its environs, allocate different terminals to ships arriving based on their sizes and amount of containers carried, also, deploy efficient cranes to unload vessels with high capacity and expand the use of inland port facilities. In order to combat and reduce traffic congestion in the port and environs, private companies can also construct more terminals to cater for the various cargoes in the port in order to reduce congestion. A development of facilities such as the port channels can also help in accommodating large vessels, thereby reducing congestion.

3) Port clearance processes and procedures should be faster and more efficient.: Digital technologies can be utilized to simplify the clearance process so it won’t be cumbersome as it is, thereby discouraging importers and exporters. Modern technologies also help to promote transparency in the process.

4) Investigate illegal charges and excesses, corrupt allegations so as to encourage transparency in the sector and ease of business.: Corrupt allegations by both government and private personnel in the industry should be adequately investigated and those found guilty should face the law, so as to serve as a deterrent to others involved in such or planning to.

5) Effective use of technology to enable smooth operations and reduce any form of illegality and/or corruption.: Effective utilization of modem technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accurately compute data and information, aid in the movement of cargoes, improve productivity and increase efficiency. Royal Renacido is top of their game as they fully utilize these modern technologies in their operations.

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