NPA Ends Stakeholders Wait For Single Window At Seaport

After so much controversies and uncertainties, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) expressed readiness to champion the introduction of national single window at ports to boost cargo clearing process and check corruption at seaports. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
Transparency, accountability and corruption have been a major bane of Nigerian seaports, and maritime stakeholders have identified integration of single window platform as panacea to these challenges.
However, since the assumption of office, the managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, has set machinery in motion to promote transparency and accountability at ports.
This it was gathered can be achieved through the integration of a single window platform.
For instance, before now, there has been limited coordination and overlapping responsibilities between government agencies, terminal operators and other stakeholders in the seaports.
As a result of lack of coordination, importers, clearing agents and other port users are faced with a confusing set of stringent, overlapping and onerous requirements that are making the adoption of a national single window imperative to boost efficiency and reduce corruption.
To promote trade, Ms Usman said that there was the need for government agencies, terminal operators and other stakeholders in the maritime industry to key into the  federal government’s initiative of promoting the much-awaited Single Window (SW) platform at the ports to achieve 48-hour cargo clearance.
This, she said, was necessary against the backdrop of a directive by  the transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, to have a single window platform that would integrate all government agencies and other stakeholders at the ports.
NPA, she said, has embarked on the establishment of a Single Window through an intense automation and introduction of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at ports.
“The adoption of a national Single Window (SW) platform will strengthen the port industry by boosting efficiency and reducing cost and time which are the major objectives of port concession agreement signed by private terminal operators,” she said.
A senior official of the federal ministry of transport who craved anonymity said that single window was made up from an organic mixture of the collaborative efforts of all the parties involved in a nation’s international trade activities. It uses the latest ICT techniques, international data and messaging standards together with simplified, harmonised and remodeled information systems for data exchange, in order to replace traditional paper-based information.
The  adoption of single window, the NPA MD said, would make Nigeria’s ports competitive in the international trade network and boost the trade facilitation programme of the government.
“It will also reduce corruption and entrench transparency and accountability in the port operations,” she said.
The NPA MD also said the adoption of  the policy would make Nigeria’s ports competitive in the international trade network.
The desired reforms at the ports, it was learnt, may not be completed without the full implementation of the single window platform by the ports and Customs authorities and a host of others in the chain of trade facilitation.
The senior FMoT official  said  the federal government would generate additional $800 million annually from the ports and border stations if other government agencies support the policy  initiative as being promoted by the NPA.
The FMoT official urged the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to compel the Nigeria Customs Service, the police and other agencies at the ports to key into the single window platform to facilitate trade and generate more revenue.
He also urged the National Assembly to back the policy  with a law.
The purpose of a single window, he said, is to provide a platform and processes for a paperless (electronic) system.
“The ultimate national single window includes all of the information exchanged by traders,government departments (including customs), maritime, air, road, rail and inland waterway transport systems, port and terminal operators, and a range of other participants in the trade process, including freight forwarders, customs brokers, shipping agents, banks and insurance companies.
The management, or governance system, which oversees this major transition from paper and traditional business processes to electronics-based reengineered systems is the major challenge, in a comprehensive sequence of conversion and change management activities that are themselves serious challenges.
“SW is unavoidable if  the country intend to remain engaged in expanded and more efficient global maritime trading activities. And the benefits are considerable and long-lasting. The reverse is also said to be huge for those countries that delay engagement in single window implementations as they will be increasingly subjected to powerful inhibitors to national trade efficiency and economic growth,” the official said.
He identified those that need to collaborate with NPA in its drive to have a national single window as  importers, exporters (consignors and consignees);trade professionals (freight forwarders, customs brokers and shipping agents),shipping companies, airlines, road, rail and inland waterways, duty free zones, dry ports and multimodal cargo depot, and dry ports,ports and airports, container terminals, bulk terminals, port gate operations and local port road and rail transport, Customs and  all agencies that have a trade compliance responsibility, licensing, permit issuing and/or inspection responsibilities.
Findings revealed that the need for the collaboration has become more acute in recent times with the requirements for faster information delivery, often in advance of shipping, for security and other purposes, and the expanding requirements of data harmonisation in international supply chains.
The ability of government agencies at ports to handle data efficiently and swiftly has, in fact, become a key element in international competitiveness, especially in port operations.
“A single window is designed to overcome this complex system of data submission and regulatory control. It is designed to sit at the national junction of national and international trade data exchange, thereby presenting a single point of access to all other relevant trade systems.
“While the primary objective is the single electronic submission of data, establishing a single window necessitates a major rationalisation of current approaches and requirements to trade administration and operations, especially the reuse, and elimination of duplication, of existing data wherever possible, together with widespread e-Government applications and trade-related ministry.
“The single window evolved as a single physical office that was established to handle all formalities, compliance and payment processes. This was commonly known as a “one-stop shop,” or “guichet unique.”Initially, in trade facilitation single window was applied to the trader’s lodgement of customs declarations and ministerial licences and permits.The concept being championed by the NPA, has now been extended by the authority to include the complete trade, transport and logistics community to boost efficiency and reduce corruption,”the FMoT official said.
The   single window  according to him, would  enable importers/ exporters to submit documentation and/or data requirement for importation, exportation or transit to a single entry point.
It would also  ensure onward distribution of the aforementioned documentation and/or data requirements to the participating authorities or agencies through the single window.
After the examination by the relevant authorities or agencies of the documentation and/or data, the results shall be notified to the applicants through the single window in a timely manner;
In cases where documentation and/or data requirements have already been received by the single window, the same documentation and/or data requirements shall not be requested by other agencies except in urgent circumstances and other limited exceptions which are made public and Government  agencies must apply relevant international standards and practices as a basis for the single window schemes.
Benefits to government agencies,  terminal operators, importers, exporters and others are that it increases the compliance level, and sees to  efficient and productive use of resources, enhanced collections of fees, duties and penalties,more comprehensive, streamlined and automated business compliance to government  legislative and regulatory requirements,enhanced risk analysis and management and improved security,reductions in corruption and illegal trade activities, enhanced transparency and accountability,more trader-friendly environment leading to increased foreign investment,integration and timely flow of information between government agencies and improved business intelligence.
If these systems are linked together into a total port community system, it becomes possible for goods owners, freight forwarders and other legitimately interested parties to track and trace cargo through the complete port system, from arrival to departure and vice versa.
“The port single window as championed by the NPA is a significant tool for efficiencies, speed of cargo movement and vessel turnaround, and hence for significant revenue generation,” Shittu said
Findings also revealed that the single window is designed to be the single information technology clearing house for all trade-related regulatory and compliance data. This includes importer’s  customs declarations, supporting documentation, import and export licences and certificates of origin.
Source: Features

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