Maritime operators have said that reforms implemented in the country’s seaport over 17 years have improved port efficiency to over 85 per cent.
The operators stated that recently in Lagos at the maiden edition of Dockworkers Day organised by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria with the theme ‘Dockworkers, the unsung heroes of port reforms’.
In his keynote address, the Registrar of Port & Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria, Dr Samuel Babatunde, said that the ports had benefitted from the private sector’s experience to fix things and get them right.
He said that dockworkers had strategically assisted in the actualisation of the desires of port reforms in many ways.
He added, “The degree of theft in our seaports has reduced drastically from recorded 55 per cent to 15 per cent under the port reforms. The degree of port efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness has improved tremendously from previous figure of 25 per cent to 85 percent. The degree of cargo handling in all the seaports has equally improved under the port reforms from less than 25 per cent to as much as 75 per cent. The degree of dwelling time of cargoes in the port has shifted from more than three weeks to less than one week under port reforms.
“The rate of port workers accident has reduced drastically from 55 per cent before reforms to less than 13 per cent. The degree of port dockworkers welfare packages in terms of remuneration, allowances and other privileges has improved from lower to higher, making dockworkers a reasonable career,” Babatunde stated.
Also, the Chairperson of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, Vicky Haastrup, said that dockworkers had had their take-home increased by 2,000 per cent since 2006 when the ports were reformed.
“Today, the average take-home pay of a dockworker has increased by more than 2,000 per cent over what it was in 2006. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and terminal operators has also ensured industrial harmony at the port. Before the concession, dockworkers were poorly paid. They did not have conditions of service. Indeed, they did not have identifiable employers. Their safety, in the course of performing their duties, was not taken to heart. They were exploited, dehumanised, and underpaid. They were paid between N2,000 to N4,000 then.” Haastrup said.
Earlier, the President of SCAN, Eugene Agha, said that the role of dockworkers cannot be over-emphasised.
He said, “The global seaborne trade boasts of an estimated N33.2tn yearly. With Nigeria as a maritime country, and its ports gateways to both regional and global trade, driving economic growth and fostering international cooperation, the role of dockworkers cannot be over-emphasised.”
The President-General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, said, “The Federal Government posited that the objectives of the reform include: to increase the efficiency of the ports operation and elimination of overlapping between Nigerian Ports Authority as a technical regulator and other agencies. The ports were delineated in 2006 to 25 terminal operators with lease agreements ranging between 10 to 25years.”