The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has frowned at the level of proliferation of charges at the nation’s sea ports saying that it is dangerous to the economy.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, said this on Monday when he led some management staff of the agency on a courtesy visit to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in their office at Ikeja, Lagos.
He noted that the proliferation of charges makes it very difficult for manufactures and investors to plan because while planning they need to put cost into consideration.
He added that the continuous imposition of charges at the ports may lead to a total system collapse if not properly checkmated.
"Proliferation of charges is also dangerous to the economy because manufacturers, investors must plan and for you to plan you must know the cost that you want to take into consideration. And if these things are not done and they spring up everyday like mushroom, there will be collapse", he added.
Bello disclosed that as an economic regulator, shippers’ council has been able to reduce the charges from 22 to a reasonable level, even as he added that the reduction doesn't mean the charges won't rise but before it rises there should be proper negotiations.
The NSC boss noted that the government must be neutral and also provide conducive atmosphere for operators to operate.
"We have looked at the totality of these charges; about 22 of them and reduced them but that doesn't mean charges will not rise. But charges if they are going to rise must be negotiated and if they are going to negotiate these things, then we feel that the real people who feel where the shoe pinches should come as part of the negotiations and we are talking about MAN. So we are happy that the shipping companies are looking at this issue very progressively”, he noted.
"Yes the reduction in the charges of course has been an effort with the shipping companies, for more than a year now we have been negotiating and this negotiation are benchmark for what is happening with other clients. We want to produce mechanism for controlling tariffs and the first thing is no uniteralism in fixing tariffs, it must be negotiated. So that will reduce local shipping charges because each charge must be tied up to service. And if you recall what triggered our conflict on tariffs was because of an order we issued saying that after negotiations these are the tariffs that must be charged. And the shipping companies and the terminal operators disputed that and they went to court and any time the court and always have the judgement because we have the right after negotiations to say this is the charge and nobody should go beyond that.
So we think now that the shipping companies are ready to obey the laws that we have issued", he stated.
He explained that no matter how efficient a terminal is, with poor infrastructure the terminal might find it difficult to survive.
"The private sector is the one to lead this economy there is no doubt about that we have seen that, we need a responsible private sector. But at the same time we at the government we have to be neutral and have some level of independence so that we will tell the government this is also what you ought to do. So I believe that by looking at that we will have a systematic way of bringing the cost and tariff mechanism" he concluded.
On his part, the president of MAN, Engineer Mansur Ahmed, attributed the delay in the export sector to poor infrastructure especially, roads.
"On the issue of the delayed containers in the ports, this is clearly a concern to all manufacturers. We do know that it is not only MAN that brings containers to the ports. So as far as MAN is concerned first of all our internal regulations within our membership we insist that all our members should be complaint to the extant regulations in terns of what they bring to the port and all that. We have also heard that this dwell time is affected by several factors; first is the infrastructure. As we all know today if you want to bring your container to the port it takes a lot of time because of the nature of the roads", he told his guest.
He lauded the NSC to be working even with the challenges to ensure a reduction in the cargo dwell time at the ports.
Ahmed called for the construction for a truck part within the port premises to help address the issue of congestion at the ports.
"And because of that, containers for export may have stayed too long before export and the consequences are that you have to make sure that your customers in the other end may accept these containers, this results to some of the delays”.