Port Economic Regulation:  How Relevant Are The Freight Forwarders?

Port Economic Regulation:  How Relevant Are The Freight Forwarders?As the agency that stands as a midwife between the service providers and the shippers who are represented by the freight forwarders in the maritime industry, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) identifies the need to fraternize with freight forwarders as a key factor in the logistics chain for ease to achieve their economic regulatory roles.

The visit was made by the management staff of the Council to the headquarters of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF).

The mission was no order than to consult, and seek synergy with the freight forwarders in facilitation of trade in the sector. The freight forwarders form a chunk of the people that clamored that the Council should be made a regulator of the port.

The clamor however was borne out of migraine they get in the cumbersome process of trying to clear goods from the port. The terminal charges and shipping lines agency charges were almost snuffing life out of the agents and their importers.

The unbearable cost of doing business in the port forced out the friendliness of the freight forwarders with the Shippers’ Council. However, the intervention could only be possible if the Council attains the status of the regulator.

The charges were responsible for the rise in market price of products. The masses were made to pay far more than the utility of the products.

However, the Council having been pronounced the regulator by the Federal Government is determined to succeed in its function and one of the ways to achieve the success is through collaboration and synergy. This forms the purpose of the ‘August’ visit as described by the President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu to the associations.

Some of the factors that the Council is fighting frantically to curtail in the industry include phasing out outrageous charges from the port, reducing cargo dwell time and to reduce perennial traffic congestion that has been a bane of business in the port.

According to the Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer (ES/CEO) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Bello Hassan who led the delegation, “regulation is not harmful to any sector, if we don’t have regulation, there will be anarchy therefore regulation must be respected.”

The mission of the CEO to ANLCA and NAGAFF is basically to acquaint the associations with the innovations intended by the Council into the freight forwarding sub-sector. Although he said the Council was not out to regulate only the freight forwarders but the entirety of the supply chain.

He advised that the associations’ executives should work towards upgrading their members so that they will not be the minnow in the supply chain. He said training and education would help to bring the members to the status where they would be reckoned with in the scheme of things.

He added that the Council would do everything possible to remove cumbersome process of doing business in the maritime sector.

He said, “We have come to continue consultation and to give concrete suggestions. We had meeting with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so that certain coordination by CBN in maritime industry will be coordinated by Shippers’ Council.”

By this statement, Barr. Bello meant that some of the loopholes in the payment system would be removed to pave way for easy business in the port.

As a measure of achieving the goals, he said, “We want to divert cargoes from neighboring countries and the only way to do it is to make our ports competitive. We want to be accountable to the people.

“Nigerian port is the most expensive in Africa and we are saying no to that. People cannot just wake up and hike the cost of doing business. We are saying no to arbitrariness.

“Regulation must be done in the industry, we call on these associations to look into this matter and see that things are resolved and we continue with our regulation”

Speaking further, the Council’s boss advocated for a single window that will help to reduce traffic and time wasted in the port. He also stated that the Council is desirous to see that the mistakes made during concession are not repeated.

He also said that the Council would collaborate with government organization to create equilibrium, coordination and regulation for professionalism and trade facilitation.

He however added that NSC would establish a technical committee to look at the training of freight forwarders even as added that such training was necessary to enable freight forwarders to be able to negotiate with service providers.

He maintained that the era of one man business in freight forwarding practice will be eliminated and invent a robust freight forwarding practice where practitioners will have offices and modern technological equipment with which they can interact and be equipped with knowledge to challenge service providers.

The committee has been said to draw its members from the Council, CRFFN and the freight forwarders.

In his response, the ANLCA president said the association had been training its members through personal efforts. This has given members of the association ground to meet up with any change that may be introduced into the system.

Registering his complaints, Prince Olayiwola called on the Council to help salvage the plight of the Inland Container Depots (ICDs). He added that failure to stem containers to off dock terminals is responsible for the cargo congestion in the port.

At the NAGAFF village, the Founder of the association, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam assured the Council of the association’s support.

Olumide Fakanlu, the Apapa chapter chairman of ANLCA quipped that terminals shut down their servers as early as 4 pm in order to accumulate demurrage. He said the plea that the terminals should run 24 hours service fell on deaf ears. He said the Council should enquire how much the shipping lines remit to the coffers of the Federal Government.

According to him, some of the shipping line agencies are ripping the country off adding, that they only have rented buildings in Nigeria and that they do not have establishment on ground through which the country can benefit from them.

With this synergy, is the Nigerian maritime sector about to witness an evolution of a sort? Can the collaboration between the Council and the freight forwarders spring any desired change that will usher efficiency into the Nigeria port? Will all the complaints given by the freight forwarders be a thing of the past when the regulation eventually takes off? Will the freight forwarders go to court to challenge the Shippers’ Council’s regu8latory role on their activities when the time comes?

Well, time shall surely tell if the robust relationship will not be smeared by litigation by the freight forwarders or some sections of the freight forwarders.

This is so because some sections of the freight forwarders are not comfortable with some of the elements in the proposed regulations.

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