Freight forwarders have expressed their readiness to work towards the success of the various projects being championed by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to facilitate trade in the country.
President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Eugene Nweke, who applauded the current moves to effect the establishment of Inland Container Depots (ICDs) and Truck Parks in the country by the Shippers Council, said such efforts would go a long way in addressing many trade obstacles being faced by importers.
Nweke, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, said such projects were needed in the face of unending congestion in the nation’s ports.
He said the current nightmare being suffered in the ports, particularly in Lagos terminals, has made it necessary for the establishment of ICDs, adding that Truck Parks were necessary as places where drivers can park and rest while on a journey to deliver cargoes.
Nweke however pointed out that the biggest problem for the success of ICDs was the issue of ineffective rail system linking the ports in the country.
He therefore urged the federal government to show more practical commitment in the area of ensuring the ports were linked with rail, adding that this was the only thing that leads to the success of the ICDs.
According to him, “ICD project, essentially, is targeted at facilitating trade by way of decongesting the ports. It is to decentralise clearing and boost the economies of other zones, and also open up the hinterland. It is a wonderful concept, but the effectiveness of the project, no matter how beautiful it is or how wonderfully packaged, is the transport mode of moving these cargos from the seaport to the hinterland where the ICDS are.
“It is another challenge. For example, if you want to move cargo from here (Lagos) to Kano, the rail track is not in order, at this time, they are still test-running it. And if you want to use the road, the roads are dead, because they have been over-stretched. So, if you must think about ICD, you must think about inter-modalism.
“There should be efficient networking system for the ICDs to work effectively. The rail tracks must work and well too. Transport modes must be coordinated well for our ICDs to thrive. And government must support the shippers’ council that is championing this project so that the objectives are fully realised. It is not about building the ICDs, but if there is no access, there is a problem”.
Nweke also lauded the idea of the truck parks being championed by the Shippers Council as a wonderful concept. He equally commended the present leadership of the Council for embracing partnership with the private sector, adding that this was for the good of the industry.
On the choice of the council as a commercial regulator in the ports by stakeholders, he said shippers, freight forwarders and other individuals in the movement of cargoes out of the ports were desirous of an “agency that will come in-between; that will serve as a mediator over trade dispute”.
According to him, “in this case, Shippers Council, looking at its enabling Act has been conferred with the power to protect the interest of the Nigerian shippers, and with long term standing experience, we know that they will do better than any other agency. That is why freight forwarders and importers are running around them to ensure that they play this major role that is vital to the interest of Nigerian shippers”.