By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
A leading stakeholder in Nigeria’s maritime industry has called for the deployment of National Single Window (NSW) and e-Customs as a substitute for Customs manual operations in cargo handling at the nation’s seaports.
She also recommended public-private sector collaboration in the automation process.
National Single Window is “a Customs portal where traders can submit all documents relating to trade and can access all relevant information regarding trade via a single electronic gateway” (e-gateway).
Princess Vicky Haastrup, Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), made the recommendation while delivering a talk on “The Impact of Automation in Cargo Handling Operations” in Nigeria’s seaports.
She declared: “Customs processes must be simplified and automated to complement the gains recorded through the federal government’s port reforms.
“The time is ripe to deploy the much talked about National Single Windows and e-Customs to check manual Customs processes and the multiplicity of Customs units deployed all around the seaport, the port gates and even on the roads to intercept cargoes already cleared from the ports.”
Haastrup said that government has to work with operators to turn the nation’s ports to “smart ports by deploying a Custom-driven, port-wide, cloud-based software that will create new operational flows that will eliminate human contacts, expunge all forms of manual processes from the system and help the port function better.”
The STOAN chief regretted that manual examination of cargoes has caused embarrassment in Nigeria’s Customs administration.
She reasoned that engaging the private sector for the acquisition of “high-end scanners” for the use of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will provide solution to the prevailing obstacles.
The seaport terminal operators’ chief pointed out that in a situation where the NCS performs 100 per cent physical examination on almost all cargoes passing through the ports is not efficient and constitutes a huge drawback to port efficiency.
Physical examination of cargoes, Haastrup observed, is the main reason why importers and agents troop to the ports daily. She added that physical examination breeds corruption through numerous human contacts.
According to her, “The solution is for the federal government to engage the private sector, as was done under the previous Destination Inspection Scheme, to acquire high-end scanners for the use of Nigeria Customs Service.”
Haastrup frowned upon the present situation of merely acquiring a couple of scanners by government, noting that the number of scanners is not enough.
She said: A sufficient number of scanners should be acquired to put a definitive end to manual cargo examination.
“The effective usage and maintenance of the scanners are also critical. Left in the hands of government officials, the scanners may be grounded in no time – as it happened before – and the system will be reset to the manual,” the STOAN chairman recollected, while expressing concern.
She averred that the services of risk assessment/management companies should be engaged and retained for the purposes of providing, effectively utilizing and maintaining the scanners.
“If”, the STOAN head stressed, “we are truly desirous of creating efficiency at our ports, manual examination will have to be reduced to less than 10 per cent of the cargoes handled at the port, in line with international best practices.”
Haastrup made the remark at a one-day town hall meeting organized by The League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in Lagos. The topic of the event was: “Achieving Effective Digitalization of Nigeria’s Maritime Industry “
By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos