Following the relaxation of the lockdown in Lagos State, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) intends to engage shipping lines to continue free demurrage for port users as part of efforts to ease business operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This became necessary after port stakeholders lamented that the termination of the free period scheduled for May 4th, 2020 was unfair given the prevailing logistics challenges as a result of the pandemic.
Reacting to this, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello assured that the Council would engage the shipping lines to continue the waivers.
The Shippers’ Council boss said, “The negotiation we had with the shipping lines was to suspend demurrages until May 4, 2020. The idea is to ease the fiscal burden on port users for the period of the lockdown. We would have to do another negotiation for an extension. It might not be 100 percent but there could be a reduction”
Bello was speaking during a strategic meeting organized by the Council to engage organized private sector groups and shippers on port operations amid the pandemic as well as the post COVID-19 era, in Lagos last week.
Earlier, the representative of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. John Aluya stressed that terminating the free demurrage period by shipping lines would be unfair on port users.
Aluya opined that the relaxation of the lockdown by President Mohammadu Buhari shouldn’t necessitate the cessation of the waivers as the problems at the ports persist.
His words: “Based on President Buhari’s speech, I think what he did was to step aside and place the responsibility of opening the economy on the state governments. That is my interpretation. MAN members are excited about what NSC has been doing especially the demurrage waiver which covers during the entire period of Covid-19 lockdown. Although the period is just to May 4th, 2020, are we sure that this pandemic would be ending before May?”
According to him, the COVID-19 era has been a very challenging period for manufacturers as well as the nation’s entire port system.
Also speaking at the event, the Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Dr. Muda Yusuf said the nation would be unable to look up to the oil sector for revenue or foreign exchange throughout the year 2020.
According to Muda, the nation was yet to see the full manifestation of the pandemic and consequent lockdown on the economic activities of the country.
“It is when we get out of this lockdown and the economic activities begin. That is when the manifestations of the consequences will hit us even more than we are experiencing. Between now and the end of the year, you can’t expect anything from the oil sector both for revenue and foreign exchange. So, the salvation of this economy is in the hands of the non-oil sector, and there is no way we can drive that sector if we don’t have the right kind of port logistics and related things”, he said.
The LCCI boss encouraged all stakeholders at the nation’s ports to play their roles altruistically so that the port sector could help in stabilizing Nigeria’s economy as much as possible.