After years of efforts by the federal government to promote Inland Container Depots, also known as dry ports, in the six-geopolitical zones of country, the Kaduna ICD is set to begin operation, having been accorded the status of Port of Destination under which shippers could consign their goods to the terminal from any part of the world. Francis Ugwoke writes
The Kaduna State Government and indeed the promoters of the Inland Container Depots (ICDs), ICNL Nigeria Limited, have every reason to smile. Any moment from now, the dry port would be ready for inauguration as a Port of Origin or Destination. This is coming years after the promoters and the Kaduna State government set out to actualise their dream of bringing a port nearer to the door steps of the people. The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, and officials of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), led by the Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello, had penultimate week carried out a final inspection of the site in Kaduna during which they expressed satisfaction with the facilities on the ground. Amaechi and the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who was part of the inspection had on the occasion assured that every necessary infrastructure required from either the state or federal government will be taken care of for the smooth take-off of the dry port. The ICD project is between the Kaduna Government and ICNL Nigeria Limited, ICNL, and expected to facilitate trade for shippers in Kaduna and other neighbouring states. It is coming on the heels of calls for the decongestion of Lagos ports where shippers have been facing a nightmare doing business.
NSC as the ports economic regulator supervising the dry port project had many times in the past visited the site for inspection. Officials of the regulator said that it was the seriousness exhibited by the sponsors of the project that led the federal government granting the ICD Port of Origin status. With this, importers can consign their goods to the terminal from any part of the world once it flags off operation. So, the visit last week by Amaechi and the officials of the NSC was for final inspection of the site. Bello and the Chairman of ICNL Nigeria Limited, Dr. Temitope Borishade, had taken the minister, el-Rufai and other officials round all the facilities. The promoters had provided every facility needed in a normal seaport, including enough warehouses for containers, car park, offices, including those for government agencies at the ports. Bello had explained that the idea of the inspection was to ensure that the dry port meets all necessary international standards. With such inspection, he said the mistakes made in the case of seaports in the country would be avoided. He added that government wanted to ensure that necessary infrastructures were in place so that international organisations, including FIATA and International Maritime Organisation( IMO), could recognise them. He said with such recognition, importers could consign their goods to the terminals as Port of Destination from any part of the world. Commending the state government for the immense support so far given to the terminal, Bello said such goodwill should be sustained for the success of the ICD. He also said, “We will also ensure that appropriate cargo clearance equipment will be deployed while human and vehicular traffic within the port will be avoided as much as possible.”
One thing that is very important in the consideration of the federal government in according any ICD the status of port of origin is the availability of necessary infrastructure for the smooth operation of the ICD. During the visit, it was noticed that the state government needed to do more working on improving the access road in and out of the terminals. This was pointed out by Bello. Following this, el-Rufai on the spot promised to expand the road as well as open up another access road into the terminal to avoid the kind of congestion as has been the case in Lagos ports. He also assured that the state was ready to address all issues that will work against the success of the ICD, and urged the promoters of the project to turn to the state government if they encounter any problem. el-Rufai said, “We inherited this project from the previous administration and we thought it was a project worthy of our support and we did everything we could to make sure it works. We tried to do whatever we could to ensure that the infrastructure that is required to make the project a reality is done. The road will be reconstructed with concrete pavement and we realised that we do not want to replicate the problem of Apapa port because it only has one exit and one entry.”
The governor appealed to the sponsors of the project to employ youths from the state instead of bringing in people from Lagos. “We want to support this work because 85 per cent of the population of Kaduna State consists of young people below the age of 35 and our biggest challenge; and our economic policy focus on creation of jobs.
“So, I appeal to you to make the best use of the facility, The Kaduna State government will be a partner and we will direct all the companies that we are attracting to Kaduna to use this facility,” he said.
Besides, the transport minister told the sponsors that the rail links to Kaduna and other parts of the country would soon be ready, pointing out that this will be a big boost for the ICD in the state and others operating in many parts of the country. Amaechi said the Lagos-Kano rail line and the Lagos- Port Harcourt standard gauge will start running before the end of the year. He expressed delight with what he saw on ground and disclosed there were plans to procure additional 20 locomotives dedicated for cargo movement from Lagos to Kano as well as Lagos to Port Harcourt. According to him, the rail projects on completion will make it easier for shippers to move their goods through rails, a situation that will save them a lot of costs, time and safety of their goods. He, however, stressed the need for the road to the terminal to be completed.
Ready for Operation
Apparently satisfied with what he saw on ground, Amaechi said the terminal would soon start operation. According to him, “Everything is set for commissioning because we have the land, warehouse and all but we want to wait for the completion of the roads. We want to wait for more activities in the dry port before we get the President to commission it.” Chairman of the ICNL, Borishade, said the company would flag-off operation soon, promising efficient shipping services to importers exporters.