… As stakeholders rate NPA, terminal operators on compliance to the port concession agreement
By Godwin Oritse &
The Federal Government of Nigeria has ordered the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, to carry out a comprehensive audit of all seaport terminals in Nigeria to ascertain their efficiency and competitiveness.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo made this known at the opening session of a three-day sub-regional summit on high shipping charges which ends today in Abuja.
At the summit which focused on the theme, ‘Unfair Shipping Surcharges and High Local Shipping Charges at the Ports of West and Central Africa Sub-region’ hosted by the NSC, Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, told the participants that it was necessary to check the unfair trade practices in the maritime sector.
He stated: “The Federal Government has mandated the NSC in her capacity as the port economic regulator to carry out a comprehensive audit of all seaport terminals in Nigeria to ascertain their efficiency and competitiveness.
“Government will ensure that the outcome of the audit report will be fully implemented for improved port operation. The report of the audit will also spell out the responsibilities of terminals and the Federal Government.”
He added, “The Council is further mandated to monitor and supervise compliance to the standard operating procedures by all port agencies and port service providers for improved service delivery.”
He told participants at the summit that the government was aware of the disturbing cost of transportation of goods through the ports in the West Africa sub-region.
This, he said, was due to high freight rates and arbitrarily imposed surcharges such as Bunker Adjustment Factor, Currency Adjustment Factor, War Risk Surcharge, Congestion Surcharge, Peak Season Surcharge and Port Operation Recovery Surcharge.
“The process of introduction of these surcharges lacks transparency and are not based on verifiable and available statistics,” the vice-president stated.
He noted that the unilateral and arbitrary imposition of such surcharges in West and Central Africa-bound cargo was contradictory to the norms and ethics of maritime transport.
Osinbajo said, “These surcharges amount to huge sums of illegal capital flight from countries of the sub-region depleting their limited foreign exchange and reserves.”
He pointed out that the overarching objective of the summit was to enable the sub-region to adopt a common position on how to reduce the incidences of unfair surcharges.
Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, the Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive of the NSC, Hassan Bello, said the management of the Council has already commenced the audit process.
He explained that the port operator has a correlation with what happens across other parts of the shipping industry.
He said the audit will look at the equipment they use, the functionality of the equipment and the turnaround time for container operations.
Bello stated: ‘‘It is in the interest of everybody, stakeholders, port users to ensure that the ports are efficiently managed as this will manifest in the Apapa traffic situation in the long run.”
Stakeholders rate NPA
Meanwhile, over a decade after the concession agreement signed by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the terminal operators for partial privatization of the ports, stakeholders appear to be singing discordant tunes on the results so far.
They are of the opinion that the NPA has failed to provide the necessary facilities as contained in the agreement such as the common user facilities, the fixing of the port access roads and others.
The terminal operators, according to them, have not been able to provide adequate cargo handling equipment for efficient clearing of goods.
However, they are also of the opinion that there has been a lot of improvement in the state of operation at the port.
Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, the Principle Partner of Akabugu and Associates, a maritime law firm, Emeka Akabugu, told Vanguard Maritime Report that a holistic audit of the terminal operators is now imperative.
Akabugu explained that the audit should be on both the NPA and the terminal operators to ascertain their level of compliance with the concession agreement.
He, however, noted that there has been a great improvement in the port operations since the concessioning exercise, especially in terms of cargo handling equipment and the volume of cargo handled at the nation’s port.
He also pointed out that the NPA should show the way in living up to the responsibilities as contained in the agreement.
This, he explained would enable them to enforce the terms of the agreement on the terminal operators.
He also said that there are rooms for improvement in terms of provision of cargo handling equipment by the terminal operators, stressing that the audit of the concession agreement would help bring to the fore areas where improvements are needed.
Chairman of Apapa Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Olumide Fakanlu, said that the concessioning of the port terminals have impacted port operations positively because there have been increasing in the number of cargo handling equipment and the volume of cargo handled at the ports.
He stated: “I would not say they did not meet or they met the terms of the agreement. It depends on the capacity of the terminal but if I was to award marks I would say they are about 70 per cent okay.
“We have not really gotten the best but at least they are better now. In the area of cargo handling equipment, most of them are trying to be of standard.
“I would say about the movement that they are 70-75 per cent better because I could remember during the time of NPA most of the equipment was not working too,” he noted.