Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello (l), welcoming Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi (r ), and other guests to a one-day sensitisation seminar towards the successful take-off of the Kaduna Inland Dry Port…recently

For the Inland Container Depots (ICDs) otherwise known as dry ports to succeed in the objective of taking shipping services to the hinterland, stakeholders are of the view that the federal government and concerned state governments must provide the necessary infrastructure, including effective rail services in the geo-political zones of the country, writes Francis Ugwoke

The efforts of the federal government in providing more efficient shipping services to Nigerians appear to have no bound. This is with the current moves to take shipping services closer to the door steps of importers and exporters, otherwise referred to as shippers. This would be through Inland Container Depots (ICDs), known as dry ports, and truck parks, all to be located in the six geographical zones of the country.

With ICDs, Nigerian businessmen can stay in any part of the country and carry out international trade in terms of export and import services. Already, an approval has been granted to the Kaduna Dry Port with the status of the Port of Origin which means that shippers in the zone can use the port for both import and export services. It also means that shippers in the area do not have to go to Lagos seaports to take delivery of such consignments at the seaport. It means that shippers in the area can expect their goods to come to the dry port from where they can take delivery.

Origin of ICDs

Promoted by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), ICDs, which had faced developmental setback years back because of infrastructure and funding issues involving investors heightened with the port reform programme of the federal government. Dry ports soon after the concession were conceived as part of the government efforts to decongest the seaports and bring shipping services closer to importers and exporters in the hinterland. This led to the move to have the projects at geo-political zones under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. The model introduced was the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model.

Take-off of Kaduna Dry Port

So far, Kaduna Dry Port is the only one among the six that is ready for business with the Port of Origin granted by the federal government. The Chairman, ICNL, Mr. Temitope Borishade, explained that after due process, ICNL terminal in Kaduna was recommended for approval to be upgraded to the status of an ICD with a capacity of 5,000 containers. Borishade further explained that with the completion of the upgrade, the federal government in its official gazette last year granted approval to the Kaduna ICD to operate as a Port of Origin for both export and import. He explained that the dry port will be operated as a joint venture with the Kaduna State government, adding that ICNL was now better equipped to bring shipping services to the hinterland and landlocked neighbouring countries. He disclosed that ICNL was currently meeting with international communities, shipping companies, customs, NSC and other agencies in the quest to actualise the project. The dry port has the capacity to handle 29,000 containers per annum.

Benefits to the Economy

Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, described ICDs as having multiplier effects on the national economy. Amaechi who spoke at a seminar organised for the successful take-off of the Kaduna Dry Port by the NSC in collaboration with ICNL, said the project will address the problem of hinterland shippers’ inadequate access to the seaports and frequent congestion at the ports. With the ICDs, he said, such problems as loss of cargo on transit, carnage and accident on the land mode will be addressed. Amaechi added that the project has the potential benefits of not only reducing transport cost and bringing shipping to the door steps of the shippers, but will also generate employment opportunities to the teeming people of Kaduna State, and boost the local and national economy.

Apart from making shipping services easier for cargo owners, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, also told participants at the seminar that ICDs can replicate port economy in the hinterland by boosting export activities through production of cash crops, a development that will revitalise the agricultural sector and reduce over dependence on oil. He identified other benefits as reduction in transport and transaction cost of the shipper, attraction of infrastructural and regional development projects. He also added that the ICDs can improve the internally generated revenue (IGR) for the state governments.

Bello identified the roles of the NSC in the ICDs as provision of valid title lands free from all encumbrances, granting of operational licences and facilitating other municipal approvals and building permits for construction at the sites. The council also monitors and supervises construction to conform with international best practice, provision of legal framework, processing , evaluation and pre-qualifying concessionaires.

Bello promised that his council would work hard to see the success of the Kaduna ICD, truck transit park and others yet to take-off. He equally commended the ICNL for the upgrade of its terminal that led to its recognition and the Kaduna state government for the provision of the infrastructure that will make the project succeed. Governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Barnabas Bala, also identified the significance of the project, saying it is coming at a time when oil revenue has fallen and increasing unemployment. El-Rufai said his government wanted to leverage its proximity to Abuja to become a major transportation hub for the access to Northern Nigeria’s population and markets. He said that the operations of the ICD in Kaduna will go a long way in ensuring the government’s vision becomes a reality. He said: “This will trigger ripple effects so unprecendented that one cannot estimate the actual export/import business volume that will take place at the Dry Port.

The facility is expected to create employment to our teeming unemployed graduates and even the unskilled directly or indirectly, improve trade and commerce, agricultural growth, industrialisation and hence increase internally generated revenue of the state.” He further described the development of ICD and truck parks in the state as a great relief to all importers and exporters from the geo-political zone considering what he described as a sour experience at the seaports, including demurrage, outright loss, damage and pilfering of cargo content. He called on relevant stakeholders, including industrialists, manufacturers, business tycoons, trade associations and others to take advantage of the opportunity created by the facility. The governor commended the NSC for recommending to the federal government the need to establish ICDs in Kaduna and for the promotion of truck transit part. He said that state government will support the ICD by providing the enabling environment for the project to succeed as well as build a transit park in Kaduna for heavy duty vehicles.

Stakeholders on ICDs

Stakeholders who attended the event called on the federal government to employ more efforts in the rehabilitation of the rail services for a functional rail system that will complement the roads and passenger movement. Participants also in a communiqué issued at the end of the event commended the Kaduna State Government and the ICNL for the successful upgrade of the bonded terminal which led to its gazetting as an ICD with full status of port of origin and final destination. The state government was also called upon to facilitate the completion of the road networks leading to the dry port and other essential facilities like water, electricity for smooth operation of the dry port. They also called on the government to accord other ICDs with the status of port of origin for export and final destination for imports. Government was also enjoined to support the actualisation of other ICDs considering the numerous benefits to the business community in various zones. The participants equally stressed the need for synergy between the NSC, NPA, Customs and NRC for the successful operations of the ICDs in the country. President of the National Association of the Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Eugene Nweke, who chaired the technical session stressed the need for efficient rail services for the ICDs to succeed in Nigeria.

Nweke and other participants argued that without a reliable rail system, ICDs will find it difficult to succeed. He also added that there is the need to ensure that all other ICDs in various geo-political zones of the country begin operation. Commending the NSC leadership for the ICD project, he advised private investors interested in the project to address the challenges before them to be able to benefit like the Kaduna Dry Port