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 Positive Impact of Shippers’ Council on  Seaport , Maritime , Economy

 Positive Impact  of Shippers’ Council on  Seaport , Maritime , Economy

Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello

By Shola Fadeyi

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has undoubtedly impacted the seaports, the maritime sector and the economy tremendously in so many aspects, since its establishment in 1978, through the instrument of Decree 13, NSC Act Cap . N133 LFN 2004.

However,  the consensus in the maritime sector is that ,the Council has been able to attain its high level of contributions ,  to the development of the sea port sector, particularly in recent times, due to  its possession of the relevant  expertise   as well as a capable leader, as exemplified in  its Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer(CEO) , Barrister Hassan Bello ,who  has  stirred its ship effectively since 2013.

Just as its activities have covered all stakeholders in the seaport sector , the providers and consumers of shipping services , it   has also , been able to fulfill its Economic regulator purpose  of achieving international standard , in port service delivery as well , as an affordable cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports .

According to Bello , the role the Shippers’ Council, has been discharging  on behalf of the Federal Government  is that of co-ordinating the various interests that make-up the Port sector, ensuring a level playing field and fair trade practices among the various stakeholders  with a view to facilitating trade in the maritime  industry.

Experts are of the view ,that the activities of  the Council , particularly  as a regulator  have led to improved revenue generation for the stakeholders  and  enhanced  infrastructural development at the seaports   , reduction of cost of doing business , improvement of the nation’s global competitive index as well as  consequent  attraction of foreign direct investment for those in the transport and logistics chain.

Thus, the general believe is that the  Council has been able to positively affect  the cross section of stakeholders in the Seaport sector differently, in many ways, namely in the areas of   improved  delivery of marine and terminal handling services , reduced turnaround time of vessels as well as lower  cost of vessel operations, for the shipping companies .

On the part of the Customs,  the notion is that it  has led to  improvement in the level of transparency , efficiency,  effectiveness and a boost  in its image while for NPA it has translated  to  enthronement  of clearer  standard  operating procedure derived from international law and practice.

Little wonder, that the  revered maritime lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) , Chief Olisa Agbakoba has expressed the view  ,    that the  role of the Council ought to have been  upgraded to that of the economic regulation of the maritime sector instead of just the port industry because of its achievements so far.

The feat it has recorded, is also believed to have  influenced its being considered  for the position of the National Transport Commission (NTC) , which Bill has already been passed by the Eight National Assembly through which it is expected to  affect the transport sector positively.

Lending credence to the positive activities of the Council, the Chairman of the Nigerian Port Consultative Council (NPCC) , Otunba Kunle Folarin has  said  that  that the Shippers’ Council  has   added tremendous value to the  operations of the seaport sector including its stakeholders .

For instance, through the above platforms , it has been  ameliorating  the financial losses of shippers and others  through its Cargo Defense  Fund while  it  has been   providing  a source of veritable information for  stakeholders, through its   Maritime Resource Library  and its maintenance of a  Data Base.

Also due to its capability , the Council has been representing  stakeholders’ interest in local and international shipping and trade related fora and organizations, such as International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Trade Organisation (WTO),Maritime Organizations of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); Global Shippers Forum (GSF) among others .

It has achieved in the area of checking the skyrocketing haulage  rates of goods  and thus reduce the high cost of doing business at the seaports, as it has just  completed the negotiations of a uniform rates for truckers, the new list of  charges   which It would soon publish, once it is  approval  by the Transportation Ministry.It is also working at securing loan facilities for truckers, to enable them purchase new trucks  as well as discussing ways to reduce the   tariff  in the seaport sector  ,to between 30 and 40 Per cent through its proposed introduction of a standard tariff System .

The Council has likewise been attracting patronage to Nigeria Ports, through the various reforms it has undertaken, which has made the seaports to perform better and contribute  more positively to economic development.

The NSC , began the process of checking arbitrary charges in the seaport sector in the  exercise of its power as an Economic Regulator  in October29, 2014, when it    reversed  the  progressive storage charges of the terminal operators  and   also directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency charges from N26, 500 to N23, 850 per TEU (20-foot containers) and from N48, 000 to N40, 000 per FEU (40-foot containers).

It  has also  reduced the various charges  of the shipping companies  from 16 to five, while it has likewise been reviewing downwards, the sub headings of their  tariff as the need arises .This is why the  Council’s  CEO,  has said  that imposition of arbitrary charges  no longer exist  and that some of the complaints  to that effect are not actually true , from the investigation and activities of the Council .

To  buttress Bello’s view,Honourable Tony Nwabunike , the current  President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and his Vice , Mr Kayode Farinto were in agreement  that   the Council  has discharged its functions  in a professional and very efficient manner  while it has thus  checked arbitrary and illegal increase in charges and sanitized the seaport sector.

It is also trying to ensure transparency in the activities of stakeholders in the sector through the institutionalization and entrenchment of a  Port  Order  principle on  which it has almost concluded  work.

In recognition of its expertise, the immediate past President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu has also   lauded  the Council , for having acted the role of an expert, creditably, by offering useful suggestions towards a permanent solution to the persistent gridlock on the access road to the Lagos seaports as well as providing technical advice for government , the Ministry of Transportation and representing it locally and globally  on maritime functions .For instance , the Council functioned efficiently as a  member of the Presidential Task Team  on Port Decongestion .

The Council has also contributed greatly  at ensuring that agencies and stakeholders in the sector such as Nigerian  Ports Authority, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) , the National Agency for Food , Drugs , Administration and Control (NAFDAC) , providers and consumers of shipping services  embrace automation and fast clearing of cargoes.

In its move to put an end to the hardship the shippers have been experiencing in the area of container deposit, it is thus working relentlessly to abolish the deposits paid to shipping companies  while in the long run it wants the containers to be owned by the shippers themselves..

Also, by virtue of the fact that the Council is now involved in the cargo examination and clearing process,  its activities have led to efficiency of the ports system, and faster clearing of cargo as its monitoring role has  made it possible for the different stakeholders, namely, Nigerian Customs Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) and others  to be present and prompt at the inspection points at the ports.

The Council has also moved to  give legal protection to those  carrying goods by land  as it sets to embark on a  very serious legislation which has to do with  Carriage of goods by land while it has engaged  with stakeholders on this, with a view to providing a kind of insurance for those transporting cargoes on land.

The Council has consistently been handling complaints from stakeholders on issues  that have  effectively minimized freight, tariff and other related shipping charges as well as play the umpire/advisory role in commercial shipping.The Council has been playing mediatory role in many of these cases to ensure recovery, remedy or indemnification as the case may be.

For instance , in  the first nine months of last year,  statistics collated from the Council , showed that it  received and entertained about 108 complaints between January and September last year  and  saved  millions for the relevant stakeholders ,in naira and hard currency   while it has continued to do so,  thus  checking unnecessary losses which  would have led to increase in the cost of  goods and services in the economy.

The Council has been building transport  infrastructure for the economy ,providing employment   decongesting  the seaports in the country, making  them more user friendly and checking  gridlock on ports Access roads by acting as  enabler or facilitator of the construction of Inland Dry Ports or Inland Container Depots(ICDs) or Container Freight Stations(CFSs) and   Truck Transit Parks  across the country.

While the Kaduna ICD has since been inaugurated   and train has started to  move every week from Lagos Ports to Kaduna with containers , as well as carry  empties and laden container of  exports  back to Lagos ,Jos ICD is expected to commence operations by December this year  .

This is even as the Council has ensured that an agreement for the construction of a fresh Dry Port in Ibadan that will cost $500 million is signed in August this year, while the  ICD is to be ready  in 18 months with capacity to employ thousands of Nigerians just like others.This is in addition to the one that is being promoted in Erunmu in the same Ibadan by Catamaran Nigeria Limited even as others in Isiala Ngwa, Aba, Zawachiki, Kano,  Jauri, Maiduguri etc, are expected to come on stream.

 For the TTPs  which are to be located in strategic parts of the country, as well , the Council has  appointed transaction advisers for them  while before the end  August it is expected to  have advertised the two to be located in  Obollo-Afor, Enugu State and Lokoja In Kogo State with strong assurance that international investors would invest in them.

The Council also provides information and education for shippers and other stakeholders as well as facilitate international trade  through its services whereby it gives information on import guidelines, procedures and documentation; freight and haulage rates; Port Tariff,; Prohibition List; Industry Operators’ Standard Operating Procedure(SOP) , Daily Shipping Position and Regulated Service Providers Registration Guidelines.

According to the Founder of the Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) , Chief Boniface Aniebonam , the current management of the NSC  has  been able to facilitate trade through its various activities , created a high level of awareness as it concerns the rights of stakeholders while it has done so much in the area of capacity building and education .

 

It is also a plus for the Council that it has been able to coordinate inter modal transportation, standardized service delivery in the Port sector, harmonized   clearing processes and procedures as well as achieved some level of reduction in cargo dwell  time.

While lauding  the impact which the Shippers’ Council has made on the seaports   in its various activities,  many in the maritime  sector ,such as Prince Adeniyi Ajayi , the Vice President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and others have however advised it, to still focus more on enforcement of its roles to enhance its achievements for the economy.

 

Shola Fadeyi, is a Lagos based Journalist ,Publisher , Marine and economy Magazine/ Newspaper and Online Publication as well as Managing Director, Simofad Communications Ltd.

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