The Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) has called for the re-introduction of barges so as to move containers to areas where vessels could not berth even as they route for the separation of the maritime sector from the Ministry of Transport as well as the establishment of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to cater for the need of the industry as obtains in the Aviation and Petroleum industries.
The President of the Association, Reverend Dr. Jonathan Nicol made this call in an interview with MMS Plus Weekly in his office in Lagos, recently.
Asked what are his expectations of the new government of APC led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Nicol stated that the new government re-invent barges in the waterways, which he said could be used to evacuate containers from bigger ports that could accommodate vessels to such one that could be inaccessible to such vessels like the Warri ports.
The SALS boss also asked for the cost of doing business in the nation’s ports to be brought down adding that the government should do all it will take it to bring down the cost even as he recalled that shippers still go through harrowing experience of paying very heavy charges in all segments of the industry before cargo is cleared.
He therefore beckoned on the incoming government to put in place laws that would make it impossible for the nation’s cargoes to be diverted to other countries.
He said that by laws, he meant that the tariffs must conform to the international standards and that the question of corruption within the clearing community should be abolished.
“We want good roads, we want the terminal and shipping operators to conduct their businesses within the international framework and this should be strictly adhered to and any company who wants to be a terminal operator should be able to get infrastructure on ground to support their business and give service to the Nigerian shippers.
“We have reached a stage in this country where cargo clearing should not take more than 24 hours even though the outgoing government gave 48 hours which was not actualized not because government failed but because all the stakeholders failed to do their duties creditably. So, we want those laws to be enforced,” he said.
He however argued that if smaller countries like the Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana should have Maritime ministry, there was no reason why a bigger country like Nigeria handling over four Million containers in a year could not have such a Ministry.
He maintained that the maritime industry as far as cargo was concerned was huge and that it needed a supervising Ministry that would concentrate on the activities and the progress of the sector adding that the sector was where the major money came from.
“So, we need a separate Ministry not just the National Transport Commission. National Transport Commission is all-embracing where you have railways, you have the Aviation, you have so many other auxiliary services that are merged into the National Transport Commission but we have the maritime sector that has been neglected all these years. So, we need a ministry, it makes sense,” he added.
Nicol further called for the rebuilding of the Warri ports as well as send cargo to the ports which according to him was not working at the moment adding that there was no reason for the port not being put to use.
According to him,” In Port-Harcourt, the cost of doing business there should be reduced. Onne Ports, the cost of doing business there should reduce drastically too because we have introduced private participation and private participation means getting service at reasonable prices. At the moment, we don’t get services at the reasonable prices yet we pay the bills.”