Mr. Bolaji Sumola is the president of Nigerian Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC), as a critical stakeholder in the supply chain and a veteran in ports operations, he features as our Shipper’s Guide this week in this exclusive chat with Ifeoma Oguamanam of MMS Plus. He speaks on the evolving impact of Stevedores and the role they play in efficient cargo clearance process in the industry. Read on.
What does stevedoring entail?
Stevedoring is a word used for the category of workers that discharge and offload vessels at the ports. In some other countries they are known as dock workers, NASC is the umbrella body of stevedoring companies in Nigeria, we are the employers of maritime workers in Nigeria and we are the service providers of labor in the maritime sector. We actually manage the affairs of maritime workers to ensure that proper operations and plans are put in place to execute the tasks that shipping companies and port operators have for us.
What is the role of stevedoring in the maritime industry?
I am sure you have seen the ordinary lorries and trucks that go on our roads, those goods did not come on top the trucks by magic, they were put there by someone and when they get to their destination it has to be offloaded, basically the work of the stevedore is to ensure that cargos that are imported into the country on board vessels are discharged and the ones for export are loaded, so it is a very professional job.
Considering that people view dockworkers as untrained people, what aspect of stevedoring requires trained personnel?
That is a big ignorance on the part of the people that are saying that, it is a highly technical and professional job, let us look at the work of the stevedore, like I said earlier he discharges a vessel and what are the methods of discharge? He operates cranes, wenches and trucks that need experts to navigate them. To use these equipment require special skills for the work to be done properly. Also at the side of the key apron , that is, the key side, there are stevedores that are positioned there to take records of all goods that are laden and the ones that are to be discharged at the same time, they are known as the tally clerks. All these require professional skills for workers to be efficient.
Is there a global organization that stevedores belong to?
Yes there is, we have the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the stevedoring profession at the international level is being regulated at all conventions that are being entered partaking to this area, so the aspect of discharging and loading a vessel is a skilled job that if not properly handled can make or mar port administration in its whole entirety .
How does stevedoring as a profession impact on the industry?
The stevedore has a great deal influence because a whole lot of the vessel is about the cargo; the dry bulk cargo, refrigerated food cargo and general cargo. The stevedore has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all cargo, during the loading, securing, and fastening, and also make sure they are properly latched in. if this is not done properly, in the process of voyage, there could be damages and during discharging, dock workers ensure that goods are brought down after a voyage of about a month with professional handling for transportation via the warehouses to their owners.
The stevedoring profession is as old as the ports if not older and may be that is the reason why people still have the notion that stevedoring is like it used to be, which is unfortunate, in some other ports around the world this are highly mechanized job. It reduces the amount of time that will ordinarily be spent if handled by unskilled persons because if the discharge of cargos are not properly handled there will be overlay in the timing of cargos at the ports and this are at extra costs to shipping companies.
How are the dockworkers hired and what government agency regulates them?
Over the years the work of the stevedoring companies have been regulated fine-tuned and professionalized, now we have Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as the agency that registers , trains and ensures, that labor provided by stevedoring companies are professionals. So, NIMASA statutorily hires and regulates the activities of dockworkers in Nigeria.
Is there any school or institution in Nigeria where stevedoring courses are studied?
Yes, there are so many training that a stevedore has t go through to be certified as competent enough to handle technical machinery; crane driving skills, wenchmen training, security training for on board security men and health and safety training which goes along with swimming lessons, averting disasters and ensuring that safety/security measures are put in place are always of the right standard and in compliance with the International Ship and Port facility Security (ISPS) code. So, there are many diverse training, including accurate and professional tallying.
Is it in maritime Academy (MAN), Oron or outside Nigeria?
For now MAN, Oron does not offer a full training skill for the stevedores, you can see there is a major tilt towards seafaring in the academy, but we have other private institutions, one or two in Nigeria. Basically, fully fledged stevedoring trainings are offered in countries that have developed like Antwerp, Singapore and in other Western countries of the world.
What is the step by step procedure of starting a stevedoring company?
First, you must have a limited liability company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and above that, you should have the expertise to be a stevedore. As a company, NIMASA has their own conditions that all companies that are registered with them must meet before they are approved for registration.
The company applies, after which NIMASA gives it a form, some fees will be paid and some bank guarantees will also be presented by the company and some other requirement that the company will need to meet, once the company meets all these requirements it will be registered by NIMASA with the registration form submitted with a sum of N100, 000 and then the company must have a minimum share paid up capital of N5million.
Can you estimate it, how much will it cost a prospective stevedore to operate in Nigeria?
I don’t know precisely, because lawyers do the CAC registration and I don’t know how much that could cost and since I don’t want to send the wrong signal I will rather not quote a particular figure, but I know that N100, 000 must be paid to NIMASA on submission of your form and you must have a well-equipped, office where NIMASA will come for inspection.
They will not only inspect the office, they will also inspect other requirements which the company is mandated to provide, like retainer ship with a hospital , gears which you must have, and the number of gears you have is relative to the number of workers which you must present to NIMASA for registration.
So the company must register each of the workers, with how much?
Yes, you must register each of the worker that you will use in practicing your trade with NIMASA at no cost, and you do not have to register with NPA, since it is a labor matter NIMASA takes charge of that, but your company must first be registered and all the workers that you will present must be registered too with NIMASA who issues an identification number to each of the worker because each worker must be identified.