Shippers Groan Under High Charges, Says Association

The President of the Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said on Friday that shippers (importers and exporters) were going through hard moments and operating under high charges.

Nicol stated this in an interview with in Lagos, as maritime activities closed for the week.

According to him, shippers are almost grounded. ``The cost of doing business has not changed that much. Each terminal has its own peculiar challenges. Some terminals are no-go areas, especially one of the car terminals in Lagos, because of some overzealous officers’ negative activities,’’ he told NAN.

He explained that some vessel operators preferred to discharge at the nearest port of Cotonou.

Nicol also said that the double payment of handling fees to Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) had not been checked.

``Demurrage charges have not changed. As a matter of fact, is (demurrage) getting out of hand in some terminals because of ``frivolous ‘’ queries raised on Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR).

``We as shippers have spoken. We await immediate action of the Federal Government to make the maritime industry normal.

``We are operating in an abnormal environment at the moment,’’ the shipper said.

In the week under review, the Federal Government was advised to make efforts to retain the hosting right of the Headquarters of the Regional Maritime Bank, presently being touted to go Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Chairman, Committee of Experts on the Regional Maritime Bank, Chief Chris Orode, who gave the advice, said that the Franco-phone countries were angling for the headquarters of the bank to be ceded to Central Africa.

Orode said that he had brought this to the attention of government, adding that government had started giving the regional bank serious consideration.

According to him, Nigeria has the cargo traffic, the population and in a good position to retain the headquarters of the Regional Maritime Bank in Abuja.

Orode said that the bank would serve 25 countries from Angola to Mauritania in the West and Central Africa.

NAN reports that the 25 countries constitute the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), a body that gave Nigeria the final approval to host and start the bank.

The idea to establish the regional bank was mooted at the Bureau of Transport Ministers’ meeting in Angola in 2005 and Nigeria agreed to host the headquarters.

The approval for Nigeria to host the banks’ headquarters came through the 13th General Assembly of MOWCA in Dakar, Senegal in July 2008.

The Late President, Umaru Yar’Adua also gave his approval in February 2009.

Since February 2012, calls were being made to the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Federal Government to provide ``financial commitment`’ essential for the bank’s take-off.

The delay is the lack of the pre-incorporation funds which would form part of Nigeria’s equity contributions to the bank’s project.

As at today, financial and legal consultants had been appointed and the bank’s rented offices and guest houses in Abuja had been accumulating rents without operation.

The bank would go a long way to generate funds at very good conditions for the services of Cabotage Act and the Local Content Act.

When fully off the ground, the regional bank would increase purchase of vessels by indigenous ship owners who would be able to lift crude and refined petroleum products.

During the week, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Malam Habib Abdullahi, flagged off the enforcement of implementation of minimum standard for all trucks doing business at the Western ports in Lagos.

Abdullahi said at the flag-off ceremony that the primary objective of the exercise was for the safety and security of port users.

He said that the enforcement of the minimum standard would ensure accountability as well as making sure that the lives of Nigerians were safe.

Abdullahi said that the standardisation of trucks was part of the responsibilities of the NPA in ensuring that trucks accessing the ports meet acceptable international standards.

He urged truck operators to fall in line with the N10,000 truck entry permit fee, saying that the money ought to be more ``but is being subsidised by the NPA’’.

``We have been experiencing containers falling down and killing innocent citizens.

``This is of great concern to us and we feel that we should go along with international standard.

``It is our responsibility to ensure that all trucks going into the ports are maintained and secured as it is being done in other countries.

``The fact that people are paying N10,000 just per annum is the administrative cost and we are even subsidising it,’’ the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes Abdullahi as saying.

‎In his speech, the General Manager, Western Ports of NPA, Chief Michael Ajayi, said that so far, more than over 2,000 truck owners had keyed into the exercise.

Ajayi said those complaint included the fleet owners, terminal operators, such as Greenview Development Nigeria Ltd. (GDNL), a subsidiary of Dangote Group, ENL Consortium, Flour Mills of Nigeria and others.

He said that in spite of some resistance to the payment of the N10,000 by some truck associations, the NPA had received tremendous encouragement from Corporate Independent Fleet Owners.

The general manager said that the fleet owners had done their certification and had also paid the required fee. 

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