By Kenneth Jukpor
The Federal Government is concluding plans to introduce insurance as substitute for container deposit which sees Nigerian shippers lose over N1.7billion yearly.
Container deposit has been itemized as one of the most problematic issues in the nation’s port sector.
Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper on the sidelines after the meeting of heads of maritime agencies today, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello revealed this.
He lamented that container deposit has been an additional cost for Nigerian shippers who are hardly able to retrieve the funds because of the myriad of issues at the ports and the access roads.
“It is not the fault of shippers that they can’t refund the containers within the specified time because we know the holding bays aren’t working,” Bello said.
He stated that the Council is partnering the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to finalize the framework to have insurance paid by shippers to cover the empty containers.
“Shippers pay N120,000 for containers deposit that’s about N1.7 billion every year for container deposit. This is adding to the cost of doing business. The roads are blocked, the holding bays are not working, so why should the shipper bear that risk?”
“We want to have an indemnity system and we have already talked with NAICOM. There must be insurance penetration as we could extend the marine insurance to cover containers. By the first quarter of next year, there will not be payment of containers deposit,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman stressed that no port system can be efficient without multimodal transport system.
According to her, the traffic gridlock that characterize Nigerian port access roads would continue until there are sufficient linkages with railways, inland waterways and piping to complement the road mode.
Usman who was reacting to a query that there have been lack of cooperation between NPA and the Presidential Tasksforce on the port access roads.
“What we sought to do with PTF is to identify that they have jurisdiction with the port access roads but not the ports. No matter what PTF does to address the traffic gridlock, if all port stakeholders and the government do not recognize the need to deploy multimodal transport system the gridlock would remain,” Usman said.
The NPA Managing Director also noted that part of the deliberations during the meeting centered on the possibility of using barges to move containers of some port users, especially those importing thousands of containers and willing to convey the containers via barges to Onitsha.
“We can’t decongest a port location with over 1.3million containers by road. We must fast track the process of multimodal transport system and this government is keen in prioritizing that and we are all providing the necessary support,” she posited.
She equally admonished Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to fast track the process of auctioning cargoes.
Speaking earlier, host of the meeting and Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh revealed that the recent meetings between the maritime CEOs had seen progress with regards the management of NIMASA’s floating dock which wasn’t achieved in the last two years.
His words: “Today, one of the issues discussed is about the port community system. We have agreed to set up a committee that will look into the operationality of the port community system. We also discussed the 24 hours operation of our ports as we observed that port efficiency and effectiveness cannot be achieved without 24 hours operations.”
The NIMASA Director General disclosed that the next meeting would see the maritime CEOs disclose an action plan which will come with deliverables and key performance indicators to see how our ports will run on a 24 hours basis.
“The issue of multi-modal means of cargo evacuation was also discussed, and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has been mandated to ensure professionalism in movement of cargoes by barges.”
“We also agreed to co-opt the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) into this meeting in our next meeting because rail evacuation of cargoes is very important for efficient port operation. So far, we are focusing on road, inland waterways and the rail means of cargo evacuation at our ports,” Dr. Jamoh said.