By Godwin Oritse
Vanguard Maritime Report recently ran into the National President of National Association of Stevedoring Companies NASC, Mr Bolaji Sunmola and in this interview disclosed that government does not have accurate measurement of crude oil export from Nigeria
Below are excerpts
What is the difference between tally clerks and dockworkers?
Tally and dockworkers are the same, in stevedoring, tally clerk is a segment of what the dock labourer does at the port.
A crane man is a dockworker which is also in the same level of a tally clerk, the lash man, the winch man is another category of dockworker.
And who is the On-board securityman?
On board security before now was also a dockworker until the International Ship and Port Security, Security, ISPS, Code, the On-board security that took the aspect of stevedore’s work.
The vessels that call at the ports are mandated to provide their security but what we have on the gangway is what we call a watchman, which should be the job of a stevedore.
The ladder from the vessel should be watched by a person because that is the gateway into any port, that is borders the country and the vessel.
Once that ladder is dropped, any person can descend or transcend through it and proper records and data of people who go back and forth the ladder must be recorded at all times.
What was the stevedore/dock labour sub-sector of the maritime industry before concession?
Before concession, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was the master stevedore, through its agents that was doing the work for them.
NPA was responsible for all financial obligations, set standards and regulated the operations of stevedores.
After concession, NPA decided to stop handling cargoes and the concessionaires took over the jobs of stevedoring companies against international best practises.
Terminal operators are not suppose to be handling cargoes, terminal operators are basically what we call house managers, they should just be in-charge of managing the cargoes that have been discharged.
We know that those that the concessions were given to, do not have the professional capacity to engage in the loading and discharging of cargoes but since this was not properly delineated in the concession agreements, they took all other aspect of jobs that were not suppose to be taken.
And all the stevedoring firms that were working for NPA were all swept away as a result of the concession.
Did you as a group tried to raise alarm about job loss before and during the campaign to concession the ports
Well I am sure the executive of the association as at the time of the port concession process did because I was not in the saddle then, but I am sure they did.
That is the fight we are still continuing to see how Nigerians can reclaim this aspect of port operations.
Stevedoring operation and cargo handling all over the world is professionalized job and it should not be mixed up with other operational functions at the ports.
It is just like mixing seafarers and stevedores, they are two different things, two distinct operations. So when you have people who are to manage the warehouse and you are mixing them up with people who are to discharge the cargo on-shore.
Are you saying that the terminal operators are doing the jobs of stevedoring firms?
Of course, they are still using dockworkers because they now engage dockworkers to do stevedoring operations and you now find that these terminal operators have stevedoring companies which means that they are the referee in what they are doing.
So there is a dilution in responsibilities which is creating some of the problems we are having at the ports because when the calls at the terminal, the concessionaires are the ones that discharge, they are the ones that will warehouse the cargoes, they are the ones that load the loads and all that.
We have the cross purpose of operations that is criss-crossing each other which is not what the practice is in other countries.
Discharging and loading is a whole professional operation.
Does that mean that what the terminal operators are doing in Nigeria is not what is obtained internationally?
Stevedoring operation is a world class job, in the United States, it called Long-shoreman and in the United Kingdom, they are called Dockers.
Pre and post-concession, how many stevedoring firm did we have?
Pre-concession, we had about a hundred stevedoring companies and post concession, we have about twenty firms still struggling to survive.
What is the contribution of the stevedoring sub-sector to the maritime industry?
Like I said, without the cargo, we cannot have a port, without the cargo the vessel can not operate, and we have seen the repercussion of ships that are not properly laden, they completely overturn a whole a vessel during voyage.
If cargoes are not properly arranged and lashed, they can overturn a vessel.
You can have sea mishaps and this creates problems.
So that is why the work is a professional job that must be handled professionally and you know in cargo handling, all sorts of accidents and injuries can occur.
So all professional ethics and standards are strictly adhered to, to ensure that cargoes are properly arranged in a safe and secure manner such that human and material resources are not jeopardize in the process.
In a paper you presented at a maritime forum, you said that government does know the accurate volume of crude oil that is exported, how can you assist the government in ensuring accurate measurement of exported crude oil?
That is what we are looking at, the issue of crude oil export must be looked into by the government.
It is the figures the various International Oil Companies, IOCs takes report back to government that the government accepts.
What we are saying is that let there be an independent body to ensure that accurate measurement of crude oil export is documented.
And this is the job of a stevedore, in the discharge and loading of cargo, stevedore will take proper records and give accurate figures because you are not at the export terminal.
We have made a proposal to government and we are still discussing.
We are not coming directly, we are saying that there are areas of operations where stevedores are not covering and which they must cover now because this is very important.
We are looking at some jetties that are not covered by government and we are also looking at the proliferations of arms in some of these jetties.
The owners of the jetties are the ones discharging and we do not know what they discharge, only the jetty owner knows what is being discharged.