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Port Access Quagmire: PTML Sparks Feud With NPA, Freight Forwarders

Port Access Quagmire: PTML Sparks Feud With NPA, Freight Forwarders

· Why We Can’t Honour NPA Port Pass – PTML Gen. Manager

By Kenneth Jukpor

According to the Code of Practice on Security in Ports, a document from the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Security, Safety and Health in Ports, Geneva 2003; security measures should be devised to reduce risks and control access to restricted areas or sensitive key points, in the port.

At the summit which was organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO), the first example on the aim of security measures highlighted in Section 3.3.1 was to; “prevent access to the port by persons without a legitimate reason to be there and prevent those persons with legitimate reasons to be in the port from gaining illegal access to ships or other restricted port areas for the purpose of committing unlawful acts”

While the Geneva 2003 code wasn’t intended to affect the fundamental principles and rights of workers provided by ILO instruments or the facilitation of workers’ organizations’ access to ports, terminals and vessels, the practical recommendations were designed to provide guidance to all those responsible for addressing the issue of security in ports and to assist in the identification of the roles and responsibilities of governments, employers and workers.

With these global port security tips in mind, MMS Plus takes a meticulous look at the access control dilemma at Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services (PTML) in Tin Can Island Port, Lagos.

Freight Forwarders have lamented that the practice was a breach in the port access procedures directed by the Ministry of Transportation; Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) seems to be oblivious of the PTML access control systems and its economic burden on port users; however, the terminal operator says its actions are in compliance to ISPS Code even as it insists that it has germane reasons not to honour NPA Port Pass.

Speaking to MMS Plus on this issue, the Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Boniface Aniebonam accused PTML of flouting the Federal Ministry of Transportation’s directive on individuals’ access into ports in the country.

“The Ministry of Transport in line with the orders of the Presidency directed that access into the ports for freight forwarders should be based on ownership of CRFFN identity card. Once you have that, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) gives you its own card because they are the custodians of the ports. The operators of Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services (PTML) have flouted the Federal Government’s directive on access into the nation’s port with the introduction of its own access cards for entry into the PTML Terminals. PTML is acting as a government in a country because they have introduced access cards into their terminal and their access card is superior to the NPA Port Pass and CRFFN Identity Card”, the NAGAFF Founder lamented.

The freight forwarding veteran urged NPA and Shippers’ Council to call PTML operators to order, however, he also threatened to take legal actions against the terminal if the operators of PTML terminal do not resolve the issue speedily.

Declaring the monies collected by the terminal as illegal, Aniebonam also called for the refund even as he admonished freight forwarders to come forward with all receipts of payments made on account of PTML’s access card registration.

Similarly, NAGAFF issued a press release last week demanding that PTML terminal stops the “seeming fraud arising from illegal collection of unapproved fees using access card control mechanism”

The release signed by the Head of Special Duty, NAGAFF headquarters, Rev. Emma Agubanze, said, “It is to our knowledge that it is only NPA that can collect administrative charge for the issuance of port passes. It is therefore to the contrary that a terminal operator should impose an illegal charge with regard to access into the port. The contract terms of the terminal operators does not include or envisage such imposition”

On his part, the General Manager, Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services (PTML), Mr. Babatunde Keshinro maintained that the introduction of personalized port access cards was in line with ISPS Code on port facility security.

Keshinro told MMS Plus that the controversy over access cards at PTML wasn’t new as it started when the company introduced the initiative in 2013.

Explaining reasons why PTML couldn’t accept NPA Port Pass at the terminal, the PTML General Manager said; “It is the responsibility of the facility operator to devise ways and procedures to guarantee safety of the equipments and the personnel within the terminal. As a port terminal which receives international vessels, PTML had to take into consideration the prevailing challenge on the global scene, to protect the area so that the ships and personnel isn’t threatened within the facility. You would observe that PTML isn’t under any secured gate of NPA when you visit PTML. NPA has no point to scrutinize the people with their cards before these individuals get to the PTML facility”

“CRFFN is a regulatory body for practitioners but at PTML, we are saying it is a port bonded area. NPA controls the whole port so its port pass is for a different purpose. When you come into each terminal facility, it is only proper for each operator to verify who goes into the facility. Recall that if there is any terrorist attack within the facility it is PTML that would have to account for the people in its premises and not NPA” he noted.

Commenting on the financial constraints on freight forwarders, he said the cost of processing the card was N10,000 for a one-time registration which qualifies an agency to get seven cards, noting that PTML doesn’t charge for renewal of the cards.

According to the PTML General Manager the company had spent tens of billions to install heavy automatic turnstiles at strategic locations including cargo examination areas to ensure genuine clearing agents and government agencies have conducive environment to work, noting that the N10,000 charged for seven cards was a token compared to the investment in technology and equipment, administrative support deployed to ensure the terminal is in compliant with ISPS rules.

“The card is used for agency release and cargo delivery. Once an agent is registered on our data base, they only need to present the original bill of lading and evidence of payment unlike in the past when agents had to submit copy of Form C30, identity card, letter of authority from consignee, letter of indemnity, Certificate of incorporation etc to Shipping Agency and Terminal for cargo release and delivery” he said.

Disagreeing with NAGAFF’s claim that the innovation was an impediment to the Ease of Doing Business initiative at the ports, Keshinro maintained that the PTML access card was a great tool for ease of doing business by filtering touts and unauthorised persons who clog the flow of transactions at the ports.

“The Association of Nigeriian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA) is in full support of the access control as they appreciate the legitimacy of providing services to licensed customs agents in a safe and secured environment”, he added.

Meanwhile, when contacted on this issue, an Assistant General Manager (AGM), Corporate and Strategic Communications at NPA, Mr. Ibrahim Nasiru told our correspondent that the Authority wasn’t aware of PTML’s introduction of access cards into its facility.

“NPA isn’t aware that PTML came up with such initiative. PTML cannot unilaterally do such acts against the existing laws of the nation. However, this is something that deserves the Authority’s attention so we would make our findings about this report” Nasiru said.

PTML says it hasn’t broken any law with the introduction of access cards to manage security at the port, but it isn’t just the introduction of access cards that has become problematic but the fact that it comes with an additional cost burden on freight forwarders.

NPA is the landlord of the port, however it is puzzling that the Authority claims not to be aware of a five-year old money-spinning venture of a terminal operator at the ports.

As freight forwarders gear up to take further drastic measures to rebel against PTML, the significance of the Ease of Doing Business at the ports comes into question especially as PTML’s innovation has brought about increased cost of port operations.

Are these access cards truly relevant to the port sector? Do they also help to protect the identity of the freight forwarders and licensed Customs agents against forgery and fraud which had become a common problem in cargo documentation and release in the country? These are questions NPA and Shippers’ Council must answer speedily before crisis erupts at the ports.


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