Eastern Ports Viability: House of Reps, Shippers’ Council Demand 30% NPA Waivers

Eastern Ports Viability: House of Reps, Shippers’ Council Demand 30% NPA Waivers·  Why Calabar port can’t benefit from NPA waivers

·  Corruption, mediocrity results of NCAA’s copious tasks

By Kenneth Jukpor & Okuneye Moyosola

In a bid to increase patronage of seaports in the Eastern part of the country, the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc Committee on Viability of Eastern ports and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) have urged Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to increase its 10% discount on harbours in the region to 30%.

NPA in June 2019 had introduced 10% discount on harbour dues in all concessioned terminals at the Eastern Ports, but operators still lament that 10% is insignificant when compared to the cost of security and armed guards onboard these vessels because of the security threats in the region, a perspective which Shippers’ Council and the members of House of Representatives also share.

The Authority came up with the waiver as part of efforts to increase patronage at the Eastern Ports, however, there are specified types of vessels that would benefit, such as container vessels with at least 250 TEUs; general cargo vessels with at least 16,000 MT, vessels with at least 16,000 MT and RORO vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles.

The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello initially harped on the need to increase the waiver to 30% while speaking at the 3rd Maritime Stakeholders Conference, noting that such increment would see a significant upturn in the ship traffic in the region.

Bello commended NPA for the respite at the Lagos ports, noting that the fiscal intervention for the Apapa-Wharf road rehabilitation, conversion of Lilypond terminal to truck park and the manual call-up system helped restore modest sanity at Lagos ports; however on Eastern ports, he said: “The 10% NPA waivers on harbor charges is already there, but we would rather have it at 30% to significantly improve the patronage of Eastern ports”

The Shippers’ Council boss also lamented that one of the major problems limiting the Eastern ports was the lack of connectivity via rail to the vast hinterlands in the region and beyond.

Similarly, the Chairman, House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Viability of Eastern Ports, Hon. Yusuf Buba, expressed optimism that an increment in the NPA harbour waivers to 30% for Eastern ports would lead to increased patronage.

“There are so many factors responsible for the lack of patronage of Eastern ports. That’s why this committee was created. The rebate given by NPA is a good development but it wouldn’t suffice. That 10% alone can’t restore the patronage of Eastern ports because there are numerous factors yet to be addressed. While we would love to have an increase in the NPA waivers, we are also concerned about addressing the many challenges affecting Eastern ports”, he told MMS Plus last week.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders at the Eastern ports have advised NPA to review the incentive and also fix the necessary infrastructure that would attract traffic to those ports.

Terminal operators in the region have also called on Authority to expand the scope of the discount on harbour dues in the region to all categories of vessels that call at the ports affected by the initiative, which are; Calabar, Rivers and Delta Ports.

Speaking with MMS Plus on this issue recently, the General Manager, BUA Ports and Terminal Limited, Port Harcourt, Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim said the discount should be available for all categories of vessels.

“The NPA 10% discount on shipping dues hasn’t made any impact because it isn’t a generally applied discount.  It is for some categories of vessels. My advice to NPA would be that they expand the discount to accommodate all ships coming to the Eastern ports. Private jetties can be excluded but all vessels coming to the Eastern ports should be able to enjoy that 10% discount on ship dues, instead of limiting it to some vessels”, he said.

He observed that the 10% discount was too trivial to cater for the cost of security as armed guards were placed onboard these vessels because of the security threats on the anchorage.

Meanwhile, operators at the Calabar Port have also lamented that the port was disadvantaged by the policy as the clause states that only container vessels with at least 250 TEUs would benefit from the incentive, because no container liner of that capacity can navigate the shallow water channel at the moment.

“If you say only container vessels from 250TEU would benefit from the discount and Calabar channel is 5.4 meters at low tide. What is the assurance that a vessel carrying 250 TEUs can navigate that channel? They should focus on the capital dredging, rather than introducing an incentive that is not practicable, especially in Calabar Port. That condition has nullified the essence of the incentive” the source said.

“The Port Harcourt and Warri ports have no challenges with dredging. Most of the vessels calling there are already doing 250TEU and above, so they will benefit from the incentive, but Calabar that has been suffering shallow water draft would not benefit. As at today, no container liner is coming to Calabar, because of the challenges of shallow draft, the port is really in need of the incentive without such a condition. What this policy has done is to create additional incentive for Port Harcourt at the expense of Calabar” the operator lamented.

In another development, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been accused of breeding mediocrity and corruption as a result of the multiple regulatory functions it is saddled with.

An aviation industry expert and former Director of Operations (Ground) Nigerian Airways, Captain Prekeme Ogbobou Porbeni made this claim during an exclusive chat with MMS Plus recently.

He opined that NCAA had become the bane of Nigeria’s aviation industry as the administration of the government agency has become too complex to administer.

Porbeni, who was speaking on the need for an economic regulator in the aviation sector vis-à-vis the role of NCAA in the sector, said; “There is always need for improvement and NCAA has become obviously unwieldy and difficult to manage. This is due to inexperienced deficiency appointees with limited capacity for the myriads of functions required to deliver efficient service”

He called for swift unbundling of NCAA to enable the distinct bodies take on various tasks crucial to the development of the nation’s aviation industry.

“It has become necessary to divide NCAA into regulatory and monitory units. Having NCAA as regulator, monitor and enforcer, is way too much to encourage ills like corruption and mediocrity. In doing this, the regulator can be under the ministry but monitoring and enforcing units should be clearly independent just like the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB)” he said.

Recall that six years ago, the former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah presented a National Civil Aviation policy which stressed the need for an autonomous Economic Regulatory Unit asides NCAA.

The National Policy had stated that, “in order to minimize the potential misuse of market power by aviation service providers and to foster a competitive, efficient and fair commercial environment where passengers receive quality services at reasonable prices, the Federal Government will establish an autonomous Economic Regulatory Unit under the office of the Honourable Minister that will become an Agency with time”

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