By Daniel Edu
Dr. Vicky Haastrup, the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of ENL Consortium, who also serves as the Chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, recently discussed the challenges faced by terminal operators in Nigeria and the urgent need for attention to port access roads. In the interview, Dr. Haastrup touched on various aspects of port operations and infrastructure:
1. **Review of Terminal Charges:** Dr. Haastrup acknowledged that terminal charges in Nigeria are overdue for an upward review due to rising costs, including the cost of diesel to power cargo handling equipment, currency devaluation, and inflation. She mentioned that the devaluation of the naira has eroded the value of terminal handling charges by more than 250 percent in terms of the dollar. Terminal operators have seen a significant drop in cargo volume at the ports, which has further impacted their revenue.
2. **Impact of Dilapidated Infrastructure:** Dr. Haastrup acknowledged that the quay aprons at Nigerian ports are aged and in need of rehabilitation. Additionally, the port access roads are in poor condition. These factors inevitably affect port operations, even though terminal operators are not responsible for these areas. She mentioned that the responsibility for repairing quay aprons lies with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
3. **Concession Fee Payment:** Dr. Haastrup refuted claims that concessionaires owe concession fees since 2006, stating that it is not true.
4. **Support for Port Rehabilitation:** While Dr. Haastrup expressed willingness to support NPA and the federal government in rehabilitating the ports, she emphasized the importance of having the necessary agreements in place to ensure a return on investment for terminal operators.
5. **Challenges in Port Operations:** Dr. Haastrup discussed the challenges of running port terminals in Nigeria, highlighting the significant investment, commitment, and experience required. She also mentioned that despite the challenges, the port concession exercise has positively impacted the Nigerian economy by increasing efficiency, reducing ship waiting times, and creating jobs with improved welfare for port workers.
6. **Impact of Exchange Rate:** The floating exchange rate in Nigeria has affected port operations, with rising overhead costs and declining revenue due to declining cargo volumes.
7. **Relationship with Barge Operators:** Dr. Haastrup expressed support for the barging of containers and other consignments in and out of the port to relieve pressure on the roads.
8. **Port Infrastructure:** While terminal operators have invested in port infrastructure, Dr. Haastrup emphasized that the decaying port infrastructure, such as quay aprons and port access roads, is not under the control of terminal operators. However, they are willing to support the government in addressing these challenges if approached with the necessary agreements.
In summary, Dr. Vicky Haastrup highlighted the need for urgent attention to port access roads and quay aprons while discussing various aspects of port operations and challenges faced by terminal operators in Nigeria.