By Godfrey Bivbere & Sharon Obiakor
DEPUTY President of the Nigerian Ship Chandlers Association, NSCA, Abilo Ochuko, has accused shipping agents and terminal operators of exposing port facilities in the country to danger of attacks despite their claims of adherence to the International Ships and Ports Facilities Security, ISPS, Facilities code.
The ISPS code is an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention (1974/1988) on minimum security arrangements for ships, ports and government agencies.
Ochuko explained that ship agents and terminal operators are conniving to get unauthorised and unlicensed chandlers to carry out the business in their facilities.
The Deputy President of NSCA noted that security guards of some of the terminals who he referred to as ‘pools’, allow boats into these facilities sometimes without the knowledge of the management.
He noted that the practice at the global level is for ship owners to contract registered chandlers to service the ship, but over the years, shipping agents, security guards at the terminals and some officials of the terminal operators have taken the function of chandlers.
He said terminal operators now deprive his members from gaining access to their facilities unless they get official notification from the shipping agents. He also said that the management of some of the terminals collects money from chandlers to access their facility and in some cases they are made to pay tax before they can supply their goods to the visiting ships.
According to him, “The biggest problem we have in the industry is the shipping company. They have hijacked what does not belong to them. The ship chandling profession is set up by the Act of Parliament 1958 and it is stated in section 74, if you don’t have license you are not allowed to bring one single thing on board.
“Before we supply our goods to the ship, we take it to Customs because we are licensed, we show them our request, they stamp it and acknowledge it before you take anything on board.
“But the illegal ones does not go there because you must show your license but now they beat the Customs and they go on board too because it is the shipping agents that board the vessel.
“You cannot have access to their terminals accept you register with their commercial managers. You pay N20,000 to register, then when you want to go and supply they collect N18,000 from you, for royalty before they allow you access.
“When they allow you access, the whole security in that terminals; they are armed robbers both the police, everybody they collect money from you for what you have paid for.”
He further disclosed that the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, that gives them license is also supposed to protect them but wonder why they are not doing so. He, however, explained that the shipping companies, terminal operators and security guards may be doing these without the knowledge of the Customs.
When contacted, Head of Corporate Communication of Maersk Group in Africa, Austin Fischer, said he is not aware of this situation but promised to make inquiries and get back to Vanguard Maritime Report.
Calls to the Corporate Affairs Manager of Sifax Group, operators of Ports and Cargo, Muyiwa Akande, was not answered and he did not respond to a text message enquiry from Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue.