The chamber specifically urged the government to finalise the concession of Onitsha seaport.
The President, LCCI, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, gave this advice in Lagos on Tuesday during the unveiling of a report titled ‘Maritime Ports Reform in Nigeria: Feedback from the Organised Private Sector’.
Additionally, Ruwase advised the government to improve the security situation along and within the Warri Port in order to ward off militants and touts.
According to him, shareholders have requested that the government should approve and publicise a bouquet of incentives to importers and exporters that patronise ports outside Lagos, adding that the measures would make ports outside Lagos attractive to importers and exporters and reduce the current pressure on the Lagos port and roads.
The LCCI president said that the survey which was done by the OPS and the Centre for International Private Enterprise was inspired by the need to call the attention of stakeholders and government to the lingering challenges at the ports with a view to finding solution to them.
According to him, the report is an update of the 2016 report titled ‘Nigeria: Reforming the Maritime Ports’, which highlights the present realities in the ports, outlines the cost of ongoing crises in the ports and highlights gaps in the implementation of policy measures for attention and action of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council and other relevant authorities.
The LCCI noted that despite all the interventions in the sector towards improving the doing business, the port had continued to lag behind its peers in Africa and other parts of the world.
He said the traffic situation at the port had resulted in 500 per cent increase in trucks transport over the last two years, longer cargo dwell time, disruption of production schedules of manufacturers as raw materials are not delivered to factories in good time, costs and risks of holding unreasonable level of inventory by companies in the bid to hedge against running out of raw materials arising from difficult access to the ports, increased interest cost on borrowed funds used for import transactions and other costs.
He said that feedback from stakeholders confirmed that bad port access roads accounted for 90 per cent of accidents that caused damage to fragile imported items leading to significant losses.
He said, “In addition, there are painful reports of loss/damage of perishable agricultural exports due to extended time spent by the trucks before getting to the ports or the poor condition of warehouses at the ports.
“For instance, about 25 per cent of cashew nuts being exported from Lagos to Vietnam in 2017 went bad or were downgraded due to these factors.”
He noted the continued incidence of pirate attacks and kidnapping of vessels in Nigeria’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea had led to high shipping costs on Nigerian waters with the cost ultimately transferred to port users and final consumers.
The LCCI president also expressed concern over safety and cost implications of wrecked ships and abandoned vessels littering the Nigerian waters as well as the shallowness of Nigerian channels and harbours which made it difficult for big vessels to berth.
He recommended the adoption of port reforms that had yielded positive outcome in some countries as well as a short, medium and long-term measures for policies, processes and infrastructure enablers needed to reposition the nation’s maritime sector.
Among the measures, the LCCI president recommended the implementation of the single widow platform by all relevant Ministries, Department and Agencies, enforcement of presidential executive order at the ports, reduction of the number of the MDAs and security formations at the ports.
He recommended that enabling port reform bills should be passed by the National Assembly and the Presidency, promotion of business ethics and integrity among port users, adoption of integrated advance cargo and Customs clearance system, enforcement of the use of national trade data centre as well as upgrade of rail infrastructure and establishment of truck park and call-up system and repair and maintenance of port roads.