Maritime: Stakeholders seek intervention fund
Our Correspondent OLUWAKEMI DAUDA dissects policies that will shape the sector in 2018, benchmarking it on stakeholders’ expectations.
During the presentation of the 2018 budget to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari projected that the much-expected rail to link Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports would come on stream by the end of this year. This, the government said, is part of efforts to reposition the sector.
But the stakeholders in the sector, however, said what they want in addition to what the President promised, is that the government should formulate an holistic policy that will enable the country maximise the benefits of its oceans, seas and water this year.
Use the sea to boost economy
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) President Prince Olayiwola Shittu said the sector needs intervention fund to boost maritime trade. The government, he said, needs to come up with a better intervention fund like they have done in the aviation, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
“Nigeria must emulate countries like Britain, Rome, America, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Singapore and India on how best to use the sea to boost the economy.
“Seventy-six per cent of shipping business that takes place in West Africa is done in Nigeria, which means that the country is very important in the continent sea ladder. Maritime trade must, therefore, be of great interest to President Buhari and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to boost economy. If we get intervention fund from the government and make it available to the people, millions of Nigerians would have gainful employment and that would solve a lot of problem the country is facing now and in the future,” Shittu said.
Ports’ access roads
The roads that lead to the seaports in Lagos, Warri, Onne, Port Harcourt, Calabar, and Sapele are impassable.
These ports’access roads have not attracted the government’s attention. Those leading to the Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports in Lagos are so bad that some stakeholders have described them as a “shame to the nation”, despite efforts by the Dangote Group to fix part of the road.
The Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) President Mr Remi Ogungbemi and other port users urged President Buhari to fix the road this year.
“The bad roads have constituted nightmares to consignees, importers, exporters, freight forwarders and other port users who use the roads to evacuate their goods. The chaotic situation on the road is making port users spend hours daily to access or exit the terminals. The Federal Government must support the NPA in fixing the road this year.
“Importers, truck owners and clearing agents have agreed to give President Buhari and his team the first two months of this year to fulfil part of his projected plans to fix the Apapa roads, reduce the congestion and its adverse effects on business activities at the ports before we can take the government serious on its plans to uplift the maritime industry this year,” Ogungbemi said.
Addressing misnomer in the oil and gas cargoes by NPA
At the forum organised by the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi in Lagos last year, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was confronted with protests by some terminal operators over the designation of a terminal operator as the exclusive handler of oil and gas cargoes.
This, the protesters said, was against the port reforms carried out by the Federal Government in 2006. The operators insisted that the government must ensure that all ports operations are modeled in line with global best practices which recognised only three classes – bulk, container and multipurpose cargo. This, the protesters insisted, is the practice globally.
The operators and Prince Shittu, however, gave kudos to President Muhammadu Buhari and the management of NPA for initiating last year, an impressive policy that empowered the authority to return to the three classes as it is done across the globe. Shittu and other operators, importers and clearing agents said they hope that the misnomer in the oil and gas designation which was corrected by the NPA in 2017 to enthrone competitiveness and end the unwarranted monopoly must not be allowed to resurface its ugly face this year.
Inauguration of the Command & Control, Communication and Intelligence Centre by NPA
Shittu said the unveiling of the Command & Control, Communication and Intelligence Centre by the NPA which was seen as one of the giant strides taken by the authority last year and needs to be improved upon this year to boost the government revenue.
“The facility is a very good facility because it serves as surveillance for NPA’s activities and for security agencies.While commending the authority for the launch of the provisional, final billing and customer portal module of Revenue Invoice Management System (RIMS) to improve its service delivery and reduce revenue leakage, we hope the management of the Authority will ensure that the efficacy of the platform is not compromised
Acquisition of tug boats and dedication of terminal for exports
“The acquisition of four new tug boats – MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya by the NPA was part of the good policy initiated by the authority to improve operational efficiency that must be sustained this year.
“Ditto the development of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and establishment of a dedicated terminal to handle exports aimed at diversifying the economy and improving earnings in line with the mandate of the Federal Government. The terminals include Ikorodu Lighter Terminal for Lagos, Shoreline logistics terminal for Calabar Port and Bua Ports. This year, all the terminals must be mandated by the NPA to establish dedicated desks that will handle all documentations on export, receipt of consignment and the loading of vessels to boost the Easy of Doing Business posture of the current administration,” said, a maritime lawyer Mr DipoAlaka.
Restoring investors’ confidence
An importer, Chief Celestine Davies, said he was happy with the efforts of the authority to restore investor’s confidence in the maritime industry. “The China Harbour Engineering Company has agreed to take up 15 per cent shareholding in the Lekki Deep Seaport project. Dubai Port World also negotiated an agreement with Josepdam Port Services while the Tanger Med Port of Morocco also indicated willingness to develop a green field terminal logistic base.
“These initiatives must be pursued by the NPA and translate into a more efficient port sector this year, so that the country achieves its vision of housing the leading port in Africa,” Chief Davies said.
National single window policy
Chief Davies also urged NPA to continue to collaborate with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to develop the operational framework of establishing the National Single Window, Ports Community System and Scanning services to address the chaotic clearance of cargoes from the port. The collaboration, the importer said, must be used by the NPA this year in simplifying and harmonising formalities that impede trade.
Making more large vessel berth in Eastern Ports
Many decades after the Eastern Ports came into being, a flat bottom ship, berthed at the Calabar Port last year. It elated importers and clearing agents. The vessel, MV’ Desert Ranger, weighing about 62,000 metric tonnes, made history as the largest ship to call at the port, despite its draft limitations. The heavy vessel, which sailed from Greece, was laden with 60,000 tonnes of wheat. The 200-metre long vessel, which called at the port after the arrival of large MV Desert Rhapsody was seen as a good omen that must not end with last year. Many importers and clearing agents operating at the Eastern ports gave kudos to the management of NPA for achieving the landmark and specifically urged its Managing Director Ms Hadiza Bala Usman to sustain the tempo this year.
Concerns over ports and harbour bill
Maritime unions are protesting some aspects of the Ports and Harbour Bill as it relates to retrenchment of staff and harbour operations being ceded to the private sector. A former member of the House of Representatives Mr Moroof Akideru-Fatai said it was good that NPA drew the union’s attention to the fact that the bill would not in any way bring about retrenchment or retirement of staff. “The Bill will allow the NPA to concession some of its operations but it does not stipulate that harbour operation would be handed over to private company by the authority,” he said.
Making the ports competitive and review of the concession agreement
The Federal Government, through its agencies, stakeholders said, must do everything possible to make the ports competitive.
ANLCA Publicity Secretary, Dr Kayode Farinto said: “One of the two approaches adopted by the NPA to achieving this is to have a competitive pricing and tariff regime. The agency has embarked on conducting a study to determine respective tariffs and pricing regimes across the region.
“Also, the authority also set in motion last year, the machinery to review the concession agreements after the initial 10 years. We believe the effort is to reposition the ports by ensuring that critical issues around equipment deployment and infrastructure deployment are carried out by all parties, as entrenched in the agreement.’’
Executive order and 24-hour port operation
“The Federal Government last May issued an Executive Order on the promotion of transparency and efficiency in business and sequel to this order, government agencies, such as the NPA, NIMASA and the Shippers Council, commenced implementation of some of the directives at the ports. One of the executive orders mandated 24-hour operations at the Apapa Ports and the NPA. Some of the actions taken by the authority included Pilotage and Berthing of Vessels on 24-hour basis.
“We are aware that last June 18, when the Order took off, NPA’s Harbours Department handled 20 vessels after 19.00 hours at Lagos Port in the first two weeks of the commencement of 24 hours operation and we hope that the trust of the Order would not be jettisoned by the management of the authority this year. We also appeal to the government to direct other agencies and terminal operators to also make their tariffs accessible anywhere in the world like NPA.
“Cargo dwell time (CDT), the average time a cargo remains in the terminal from the point of discharge to the point it exits the terminal, must be improved upon significantly this year. The government must support NPA and the Nigerian Shippers Council in ensuring that human contact, which breeds corruption in the seaports, airports and international land borders are eliminated to boost the campaign for 48-hour cargo clearance regime announced by the Federal Government.
“About 90 per cent of goods are still subjected to physical examination as against use of the mobile and fixed scanners. A lot of deals devoid of transparency and integrity that are taking place at ports and international land borders must be addressed seriously by the government this year,” DrFarito said.
NIMASA, security and CVFF disbursement
Indigenous ship owners said they were sad because they had not accessed the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF). A member of the group, Mr Margret Orakuwsi urged the Minister of Transport RotimiAmaechi to ensure that the money is disbursed this year to boost indigenous capacity id shipping.
Other stakeholders said they were happy that the NIMASA Director-General Dr Dakuku Peteride brought the issue of the blue economy to the front burner. Maritime, they said, has become a key sector.
“As an oil-producing and exporting country, as well as a consumer nation, the country is a large market for foreign goods owing to its population. Thus, the industry is key to growth. To unlocking the potential in the sector this year, policies and programmes on blue economy by the Federal Government are vital. Although, NIMASA is taken steps to reposition the maritime security landscape. The security of the waterways and the sea must be a key component of DrPeterside’s policy this year,” Alaka said.
Cabotage Act, Alaka said, must be made to work in areas like the environment, lives and clean ocean.
Shippers Council and intervention fund
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) needs the maximum support of the Federal and state governments to build the Truck Transit Park (TTPs) and the Inland Dry Ports (IDPs) across the country. The Council must continue with his laudable engagement of the terminal operators and other critical stakeholders to make the ports attractive and competitive.
Its role as economic regulator transcends the position of the Federal Government on every issue relating to trade and commerce. “Shippers Council is the umpire between the government and the investors at ports. It is not biased and it must be seen to be faired to everybody this year to make the ports attractive and competitive in the sub region,” Alaka said.
Its Executive Secretary, Mr Hassan Bello, according to the operators, has what it takes to contribute meaningfully to reviewing the concession agreement and to carry out the reforms in our ports.