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We intend to grow our cargo throughput to four million tons in five years — Simon Travers

Managing Director of Josepdam Port Service Nigeria Limited, JPS, Simon Travers recently spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report’s, Godfrey Bivbere in his office in Lagos. The JPS boss addressed issues ranging from its annual throughput of the terminal, state of its cargo handling equipment, relationship with the dockworkers, expansion work, projection and much more.

Let us look at your operations here, what is the terminal into, are you into bulk, liquid or general cargo?

We are a multipurpose terminal which means we can handle anything except containers, general cargo and other commodities.

The major problem in some of the terminals is the issue of cargo handling equipment; do you have enough for the operation?

We do not have enough, but I have just bought five forklifts, we are importing them from China which is coming in on Jan 17th.

What is the annual throughput of the terminal and what is your projection for next year?

It will be difficult to give our projection for next year.

What is the throughput for this year?

The throughput for this year till date is 1.8 million tons of cargos that make it 2 million for the end of the year 2018.

So what is the projection?        

Well, the projection for next year like I said is very difficult; and the reason is that we are just embarking on a development plan here to build an integrated conveyor system and a number of silos which is going to generate another 153 thousand tons. So effectively my terminal will become a construction site throughout next year. And now am in the process of generating extra land to convey general cargo, our general cargo throughput for this year is 150 thousand metric tons which is approximately 250 thousand of general cargo.

Now we are expecting the figure to remain the same in 2019. However, I already have space constraints because of the construction business next year so I am actually seeking for an additional space between Kirikiri, Tin-can and enough facilities for storage of general cargo while the construction is ongoing.

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What we are doing is developing the terminal to be basically a premium bulk terminal in Nigeria. At the moment the discharge for the maize in Honeywell, Holland, and Eagle flourmills, their discharge is 250 ton an hour; with what we are bringing in it will be 600 ton an hour. We are upgrading the facility to world class, importing all their machinery and infrastructure from Europe to improve our discharge to 600 ton an hour.

We will definitely be the most productive and premium terminal for discharge in Nigeria. The construction has started and it will be concluded in 2 years time. It is a $62 million investment. It is going to give us storage of 150 ton that we intend to fill a minimum of four times what we have at present. It will also increase the number of vessel call because at the moment the system that we have got, we only have three berths.

If you look at the place you can have 11 berths, one thing we have to look at here is how to utilize our berths better, if there is any way we can utilize our berths better and faster for the vessels calling at our facility. So if we discharge 250 ton an hour, we have a 30 thousand tons which will take us five to seven days to discharge but if we discharge 600 ton an hour it will take two days with the minimum of 50 per cent increment. So we can turn vessels around 50 per cent quicker and we will be doing 120 vessels per year, this will enable us to do at least 200 ships a year with the same mass space.

It will increase our berth occupancy, so that is the reason we are doing what we are doing and this is a secondary core business for us. What we are now doing is to encourage manufacturers to utilize our silos facilities because space is premium in Lagos but most especially in Tin Can, there is no more space so we are capitalizing on the 5.7 hectares of land we bought, 10 square metres is going to be used for silos storage. Those 10 thousand square metres will hold a 153 thousand of cargo.

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What is the major challenge for the terminal presently?

Infrastructure, the local infrastructure, that’s primarily the problem because of the turn-around time of our cargo here, the turn-time is supposed to be seven days; that is the average but at the moment it is 27 to 28 days and this is reducing our throughput ability. The longer the cargo stay on the terminal the less cargo we can off load from other ships. So we are turning away ships because we do not have space. We had some ships yesterday but I had to reject them because we have no space and another reason I do not have space is because the trucks cannot get here because of infrastructure and the road is in bad condition and the trucks cannot get here because of the gridlocked. That is the major challenge we are having as a terminal.

Any challenge from government policies?

Not really, there are no government policies that are affecting us. There was the issue of ban on some products coming to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, UK but that has not come to effect so the only challenge we have is negotiating with the senate on the bill and NPA. The inability to get a foreign exchange is also another problem. Some of our clients plead with us allow them pay their dollar bills in naira…

In doing your business, you convert your supposed dollar bills to naira for your clients when you have dollar bills to pay to NPA?

Because of the inability to get a foreign exchange, what happens is that vessel coming here always have two bills, a dollar bill and a naira bill, so concerning the dollar bill there are situations the importer cannot access the market to get the dollars, they have to go to the black market which makes the rate to be N360 to N370; which is obviously wasting their money because it is not readily available at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN because they cannot go there and get it. So when they come and say “can you help us by allowing us to pay our dollars bills in naira?” Depending on our requirements for the naira then we can say yes or no. We have our obligations to NPA; we have obligations to pay dollar or naira bills for our lease fees.

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Because of the inability to get dollars, you tell your clients to pay in naira.

What happens to your paying NPA dollars?

We manage our finances well. I will always make sure I have enough dollars coming in and if I have the ability to help our clients by allowing them to pay their dollar bills in naira as long as we have generated enough dollar to pay more obligations. So I do not go into danger.

What is relationship with dock workers?

Very good, we took charge of this company 2012, the relationship with the dock workers and maritime union was a little bit fragile but we have improved all of their social aspects of the terminal. We have cleaned the terminal up, we have given them all the facilities that they need, we have built a good relationship with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN and what we also did is to create an in house union, any negotiation and conditions that has to do with the terminals, conditions of labour, goes to our in house union so it does not go to district level or national level.

For the next four years, we are not going to have any issues, where there are relationship that we have with the President General and the President of the branch is good and we tend to deal with everything in hands.

If the labour has an issue, we have good relationship with them and they come to us first and we go through a process of negotiation to resolve such issues. Our dock workers are our staff, so they are part of the negotiations at the National level, my co labour are 45 per cent unionized and 55 per cent not and the conditions of employment are all in house, their salaries and benefits are negotiated in-house. If there is any issue that needs to be resolve, the nation level cannot come in because they are not part of the collective part of the agreement, so what is happening now is that the bargain for 2019 to 2020 is been negotiated now between Shipping Terminal Operators of Nigeria, STOAN, NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and various bodies. They are negotiating on the agreement Nationwide. There are elements of that, so there are certain conditions that we apply in our in house negotiations. Any problem that we have now at any level will go straight to the President General.

You have been here for six years; I will like to know your perspective for someone who wants to come to Nigeria to invest?

Presently I am a member of the Commonwealth Strategic Planning Council of the UK, and I go on many conferences around Europe I have gone to Dubai, London and I always encourage people to come trade in Nigeria. Nigeria has a lot of business opportunities if it is managed correctly. What I try to make people understand when they ask about Nigeria, I tell them Nigeria has its own culture and that there should never try to change it. Allow the benefits of their culture help you develop your business. Let us say there are 200 million people in this country, probably 20 per cent of that population are educated and 20 per cent of 200 million is 20 million.

If you get 10 per cent of that 20 million who are educated to either masters or diploma level, there are still 200 thousand highly educated individuals out there. It is having them to understand international standards, if the international standards can be adopted in business trade in Nigeria then there is no business that will fail.

It is educating the individuals about international standards, what it is and what does it mean and if we can adopt the international standards here your business will work. When I came here this business was down, it has almost gone bankrupt, it was in a terrible state but I introduced international standards, procedures, plans, educating, mentoring the staff, training the staffs, giving them the skills on their individual tasks, allowing them to multi task and also allowing them to think.

That is what I do here and we have been internationally recognized, we have won African business of the year. It took us from January 2013 until December 2016 to get this place in order. We took away the stigma of Josephdam Port Services. Due to the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, I cannot change the company name but I can re brand it, so I re branded it to JPS.  All we did was teamwork, not individual efforts. Just because am the Managing Director doesn’t mean I cannot help out, what we need is for the whole company to be recognized and that is what we did.

Five years from now?

Five years from now you are going to see this terminal transformed, our throughput will be about four million tons, my revenue will be three times what it is now and my net profit and also committed to Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, also the friendliest terminal in Lagos. We will be by this time next year, we will be the only terminal in Nigeria that has silos power and the whole of my warehouse will become a silos power unit. We are also going to be doing waste segregation which includes plastic and metals; we have also got gas power coming in. We are taking away paper work; all the tallies of our cargos will be computerized. It is called Tally Green, ours is done on tablets and we have built a software program that. Each of them (telly clerks) has their own tablets. It also makes it more efficient, speedy and less cost. We have 21 cameras that can be viewed anywhere in the world by the time am done with my infrastructure, it is going to be 24/7.

 


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