After years of exploitative charges by shipping companies operating in the country, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has concluded arrangement to introduce flexible rates in port charges as it begins a regime of competitive pricing.
Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the council, Hassan Bello disclosed this in an exclusive chat with THISDAY in Lagos.
Bello said the NSC would later this month, sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the shipping companies to agree on the templates for port charges.
The MoU, he stressed, is part of the strategies to sanitise the industry and effectively supervise the foreign shipping companies operating in Nigeria and terminal operators and to ensure that Nigerian ports become competitive in the West and Central African region.
According to him, “Port charges will be varied from shipping firm to shipping firm with slight differences in charges; there will not be a uniform charge. It will give room for competition amongst them and shippers will have a choice to make.”
Bello, who described the collection of arbitrary and unapproved charges as ‘indecent practice’ by shipping firms and terminals said the action will stop when the MoU comes into force.
However, he cautioned that apart from protecting the interest of the Nigerian importers, it also has obligation to other stakeholders as they have invested heavily in the nation’s economy and employed thousands of Nigerians.
He said before any new charge would be introduced, it would be discussed and agreed upon by all parties, adding that the MOU is still being discussed with the relevant stakeholders.
The MOU, he explained, would have a tremendous impact on the way business is done in the country especially at the cost and competition
“We need our agencies to compete against each other so that the customer becomes king. We want our port to be efficient so that we can attract goods to the country and challenge our competitors in West Africa. We really need efficient port, a port that has linkages with the hinterland and we need deep sea port instead of the river ports we currently have in Apapa and Tincan.
“We need a whole new vista so that larger ships will come to our port. We also need to have clearance procedure that is automated so that people can clear their goods in 48 hours. We want the ports to work 24 hours a day just like we have at the airport and we want to attract cargo so that Nigeria will be a hub.
Speaking on his approach to investors to invest in the Inland Container Dry Port and Truck Transit Park across the country, he said the role of the NSC as a regulator was to coordinate investors in the transport industry.
Bello said: “We need to have modern infrastructure in the country, we have a large deficit especially transport infrastructure. But I see this as an opportunity to upgrade our infrastructure, create new ones for efficiency. That is why we have come up with the concept of dry ports and truck transit park. These dry ports are located in five places across the country and we have two that are ongoing.
“The purpose of the dry port is to bring shipping to the people in the hinterland, Nigeria is so blessed with versed hinterland. We have 925SKM that is the land size of Nigeria and we have 200 million people. So it is important that we have land connection and integration. The question of rail which is quite revolutionary is commendable. The Nigerian government is very focused on the rail and the dry port is supported by rail.
“If we achieve our aim in this regard, it means we are making it possible for our people to import ad export. We are decongesting the sea ports and transferring the economy of the seaports to the hinterland. Whatever happens in Lagos could happen in Kaduna. Some freight forwarders for example have moved to Kaduna. That is an example of inclusiveness