The recurring flagrant disregard for the port concession agreement by the terminal operators is a source of worry to the Federal Government, which is bent on reviewing all the concession agreements.
Meanwhile, some terminal operators have been listed as chronic debtors for recurring default in their payment of royalty to the government.
Findings by MMS Plus have also revealed that some terminal operators have tactically withdrawn their membership of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), accusing the leadership of self-centeredness, vision derailment and perpetual neglect of members problem.
According to a source in Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), who confided in MMS Plus that government was bent on reviewing the port concession agreements to check the breaches, the list and debt profiles of the concessionaires are being compiled.
The source expressed surprise that some of the green filed concessionaires like APM Terminals Limited, Apapa have refused to meet their concession obligation of royalty payment.
“One thing that still beats my imagination is the distortion of the port concession initiative. And the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) even BPE have allowed this unchecked. Concession was done on the premise of engendering a healthy competition among the terminal operators and ports to bring about better service delivery and reduce the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports in relations to the competing ports in West Africa.
“But soon after the exercise the concessionaires formed a cartel under the so called STOAN chaired by Vicky Haastrup. This group negates the spirit and letters of the concession agreement. They engage in arbitrary price fixing and resist changes. Are you aware that they are part of the reasons the anti-trust bill has not seen the light of the day?. I can still tell you that the National Transport Commission (NTC) bill will remain a still-birth if the activities of STOAN and their agents are not checked,” the source told MMS plus in Abuja.
Listed as a breach in the concession agreement is the STOAN litigation against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Federal High Court, Lagos. The agreement provides for an appointment of an arbitrator for dispute restoration, but STOAN went to court. Another window for dispute resolution in event of disagreement as stipulated in the concession agreement is resorting to the Lagos Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (LRCICA) and the rules here shall apply in eventual arbitration.
Another area of breach is on documentation and audit. The concessionaires are under obligation to provide to the port regulator accurate data on the quantity, types and weights of cargoes handled at the terminals; accurate data on the numbers and types of ships, wagons or road truck loaded in the terminals; claims received or paid in relations to cargo damage; information on public complaints; among others.
According to the BPE source, the concession agreement can be revoked on the strength of default in payment in accordance with the concession agreement. So the payment defaulting concessionaires risk revocation of their contracts.
Realising that it has also breached the arbitration clause, the management of APM Terminals Limited, Apapa tried to back out of the NSC case, but their team of defense counsel reasoned that it was too late.
Our findings further revealed that APMT is a major sponsor of the ongoing litigation between STOAN and NSC at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Meanwhile, out of over 16 terminal operators spread across Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Calabar and Koko, only APMT, ENL Consultium Limited; Tin Can Island Container Terminal Limited (TICT); Apapa Bulk Terminals Limited are still stuck with STOAN.
Greenview Development Nigeria Limited; Ports and Terminal Multiservices Ltd; Ecomarine Limited; Intels Limited have left the association, while others under passive status are: Julius Berger Nigeria Services, Warri; Port and Terminal Operators Limited(PTOL); Brawal Oil Services Limited; Gulftainer Bell Limited/Greenleigh Limited, Koko Port; Bua Ports and Terminals Limited; Josepdam Nigeria Limited; Five Star Logistics Limited and Ports and Cargo Handling Company Limited.
MMS Plus findings revealed that some of the terminal operators who have opted out of STOAN are not pleased with the leadership’s confrontational approach against the government regulations, while some have equally alleged that STOAN is about Lagos based terminal operators, even as other said that it has been hijacked by APMT and Princess Vicky Haastrup, the chairman.
Speaking with one of the terminal operators in Port Harcourt recently, he said: “We have a problem among members. Is Intels not terminal operator, and a supposed member of STOAN, yet we are in court contesting monopoly in oil and gas related cargo? What has STOAN done to resolve that? In Calabar port, the problem of channel dredging has been on for years, how many times has STOAN come up to speak about it. Is Ecomarine Limited not a member? So, in my thinking STOAN is for a few terminal operators in Lagos. Besides, we all have different or peculiar concession agreement”.