A whooping $2 billion investment by the terminal operators has massively turned around operations at Nigerian seaports since the commencement of the concessioning programme about 11 years ago.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, who disclosed this recently, commended the Federal Government for its foresight in instituting the programme.
Before terminal operations were concessioned in 2006, Nigerian ports faced major challenges, which placed them among the most inefficient in the world. Before concession, the average waiting time for ships before berthing was 21 days, vessel turnaround time was seven days while dwell time for cargo was as high as 45 days.
Virtually all the major seaports across the country were heavily congested leading to insecurity and pilferage, delays in cargo clearance and inefficiencies in cargo handling largely due to manual processes.
According to Haatrup, the $2 billion invested by private terminal operators were deployed in modernising and upgrading their various terminals as well as in manpower development.
She said the success of the ports concession programme, which was implemented in 2006, has made it a model for consideration by other governments across the world to concession public infrastructure, and also for Nigeria to extend the model to other sectors of the economy.
Haastrup said: "What concessioning does is free government resources for the provision of other social services to the people. Government remains the ultimate owner of the concessioned facilities but the private sector is mandated to develop and operate those facilities under agreed terms over a certain period.
"This is a worthy model, which has not only improved operations at our ports, but has also attracted commendation from within and outside the country. "After Nigeria's port concession, we now have countries like Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, and even Greece adopting our model. The Liberians and Ghanaians sent delegations to understudy our port concession model to develop theirs.
"Also recently, the Greek Government concessioned the Thessaloniki Port, which is one of its most important public infrastructure. This is a clear indication of our success as a nation in building models worthy of emulation by others," Haastrup said.
She also said the Federal Government's consideration for adopting the concession model for the railway and aviation sectors derive from the success of the port programme.
"I have implicit confidence in the present government's ability and commitment to the improvement of public infrastructure in the country and one is delighted to note that concessioning has become the model being adopted for both the railway and aviation sector reforms," she said,
The STOAN chairman also commended the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for launching a Safety, Information, Operation and Communication Centre to enhance 24-hours operation at the port.
"The commissioning of this centre and the recent launch of four new tugboats by NPA will deepen reforms at the port. It will complement the efforts of terminal operators to make our ports competitive," she said.
As a result of the challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2006, concessioned cargo handling operations at the ports to 25 terminals operators under various lease agreements raging from 15 to 25 years.