The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA has strongly canvassed to be given the role of technical and commercial regulator in the countryâ€™s post-concession port industry in order to achieve international best practices in the system.
Canvassing for the new status in Abuja Wednesday, was the Managing Director of the organisation, Mallam Abdul Salam Mohammed at the Joint Committee of Marine Transport and Justice public hearing on the Ports Act (Amendment) Bill 2009.
The NPA boss also demanded that the name of the organisation be changed to the Nigerian Ports and Harbour Authority, NPHA, from the Ports and Harbour Authority, PHA being proposed in the new legislation.
According to him, the new nomenclature was to reflect the roles the organisation was playing and hoped to play in the new scheme of things.
In his lead presentation, Abdul Salam had requested that the outfit be assigned the additional role of a commercial regulator. Arguing that though it could look absurd for an operator to at the same time be a regulator, he made it clear that in the absence of any unbiased umpire like the proposed National Transport Commission, NTC presently, the authority was the only outfit in the sector that was qualified to perform such a function.
The managing director also argued that NPA was the only body that knew adequately the contents of the Concession Agreement reached with terminal operators and the required standard to be met to satisfy customersâ€™ needs, having performed such functions in the past.
On the suggestion in some quarters for a Council made up of all stakeholders to regulate the sector, the NPA boss pointed out that such a body might be counter productive as there would be difficulty in arriving at decisions due to conflict of interests.
He also pointed out some of the other flaws in the proposed law among which was its inability to envisage private sector participation in the provision of port services except as agents of the authority.
â€œIt did not provide for private ownership of ports nor vest the authority with power to grant concessions or authorize private port development for provision of port services.
â€œThe Act does not have sufficient provisions for licensing private port development; it contemplated only jetties for particular cargoes and uses as against general purpose or service port as in Section 33 â€“ 38â€, he added.
While observing that the proposed legislation limited the powers of the organisation to deal with land vested in it as in Section 25, the Managing Director pleaded that the deficiency in the extant Port Act be addressed.
In this regard, he canvassed for among others, the following: â€œRelaxing the restriction on the power to alienate land to a period of five years.
â€œEnhancing the Authorityâ€™s capacity to enter into agreement with independent private sector companies and service providers for the provision of port services as principal parties other than as agents of the authority.
â€œVesting the authority with power to license new port development whether privately or publicly owned; giving the Harbour Master powers to regulate berthing of ships at all terminals and port locations within a Pilotage District and handle matters of health safety and environmentâ€.
The NPA boss similarly demanded that the authority be given the residual operational powers to take over and manage any concession in the event that the â€œconcessionaire fails to perform the services, national emergency, or in the overall public interest as may be determined from time to time by the Federal Governmentâ€.