By Frank Odinukaeze
Otunba Kunle Folarin is the Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC). He is also an economic expert and a maritime guru. In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus newspaper, Folarin speaks on a wide range of maritime and economic issues.
Recently, the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Adewale Adeyanju claimed that insecurity at the port and the absence of onboard security men otherwise known as gangway and tally clerks are responsible for the influx of arms and ammunition including elusive drugs and other dangerous cargoes. What is your take on this issue?
Well, I don’t know what facts are available to him that illicit drugs are being smuggled into the country because of the absence of security men and tally clerks. Tally clerks don’t have anything to do with security. However, securities on board vessels are gangway security. Sometimes; they have cargo watchmen but mostly it’s gangway security that is at the entrance into the ships.
So, we need more facts to know where this concern is coming from about the claim the tally clerks or gangway men absence is responsible for smuggling of drugs and ammunition.
Only three International Oil Companies (IOCs) have reportedly complied with the agreement reached between the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and Stevedoring operators that tally clerks should return to the IOCs. What is your reaction to this Sir?
IOCs are mainly oil exploration companies and they don’t normally import cargoes. The need for tally clerk security will be relative to cargoes that are coming through the IOCs operations. Although tally clerks and security might be needed onboard IOCs vessels, that has to be relative to the work that is being done. In other words, the volume of work will determine the need for that category of workers. Nevertheless, I agree that IOC should allow tally clerks perform their functions on the ship as long as cargoes are being discharged or loaded.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has claimed that it is not responsible for the sinking of the Global West gunboat as a result of the litigation. What do you make of this development?
NIMASA did not sink the vessel; but the vessel was in the custody of NIMASA. And if so, NIMASA must have responsibility to maintain the vessel. A vessel can sink if it is not being used, however, NIMASA should take responsibility for whatever that is in their custody.
Whatever happened to the Global West gunboat is under the responsibility of NIMASA because the boat was in the custody of the agency.
Taking a cue from what happened with the Global West gunboat, if such an unpleasant incident reoccurs in future, what advice would you proffer for the Nigerian ship owner?
Ordinarily, a ship owner or the owner of any boat or craft has the responsibility to take care of the ship or vessel. It is nobody else’s responsibility. The issue with the Global West gunboat is that the craft was seized and under NIMASA’s custody.
It is the responsibility of a ship owner to ensure his asset is seaworthy and always in good condition. The vessel belongs to the ship owner and there wouldn’t be a reason for it to sink if the ship owner does his job properly.
In recent times, PCC has had numerous engagements with Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), University of Lagos (UNILAG) others; what is the outlook for the Council going forward?
The Council is the apex maritime consultative council in Nigeria and it has wide-spread responsibilities to make sure that maritime education, knowledge and operation is properly done. UNILAG has institute shipping and they have a multi-modal Transport Department. Our engagement with them was very fruitful and they were very happy that they are ready to bring our knowledge to their own establishment. UNILAG is determined to work with us and we have also got similar support from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
UNILAG is concerned about the Maritime domain specially because it has an Institute of Shipping. That is why they have taken interest in our partnership.
There is a trending issue, which has to do with Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and other agencies clamouring to return to the ports despite the government’s move to reduce the number of agencies in the port. As the chairman of PCC, what is your stand on this development?
My stand is that they should stay where they are. There are too many agencies at the port already. The port is a transport transit corridor for international shipping. It is not a place for agencies to parade themselves or showcase their operations. They can do whatever they want from their own organization premises; after all, not all cargoes that are brought into Nigeria require SON’s services or the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFFAC). It’s only when the import or export concerns substandard goods that SON will be invited by the Customs to examine any cargo. The same goes to NAFDAC. It is not right that every agency must be in the port.
What is the implication to the maritime domain of the move by SON and other agencies to return to ports especially as some stakeholders have supported SON’s bid to return to the port?
It has no implication. I believe that it is a propaganda. They should stay where they are and do their work. SON doesn’t examine petroleum products. They don’t examine sugar, milk and lots of other products regularly imported into the country. So, I’ll strongly suggest that they remain in their offices and continue to show up at the ports when invited by Customs.