Shippers’ Council Charges Terminal Operators, Others To Submit To Regulation Or...

‎Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council; Barrister Hassan Bello has warned terminal operators, shipping companies and other operators to submit themselves to the Council's regulation or be swept away by unfolding reports and impending wrath of the law.Bello declared this in Lagos yesterday at a ‘One Day Talk Shop on a Decade of Nigerian Ports Concession’ organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN).He bemoaned the attitude of some seaport terminal operators to the change mantra of the Federal Government; even as he lamented that shipping companies and terminal operators find it difficult to submit themselves to the law of Nigeria, whereas they obey all laws of other countries.The Shippers Council boss also lamented that‎ the court case which was instituted against the Council by the concessionaires and shipping line agencies has greatly slowed down the Council’s work and affected its regulation prowess.He however warned that the Shippers Council is coming out in full force with some set of reforms which according to him, will cut across all sectors of the maritime industry. He said that anyone who resists the reform will be swept away.According to him, “the maritime concessionaires, shipping companies and others have shown enough courage to invest in Nigeria; we should never forget that they have option to move elsewhere.“However, there is need for the private sector to behave responsibly. There are a lot of sharp practises going on inside the ports like not positioning the containers when it’s time to do so, rent- seeking activities and so on"“We have found out that some terminal operators are very far ahead of others. While some terminal operators have embraced automation, certain terminals operators are still operating primitively. These terminals will not embrace automation. These terminal operators resist regulation vehemently, not knowing that the regulation is for their own good"“For example, the case we have with the terminal operators and some shipping companies has taken the shine off the regulation we have put in place. This has also brought a lot of delay in some areas where we would have gone very far by now.“This is so because some of these terminal operators believe we cannot audit them, or that they are above the law. It is important that investors subject themselves to the laws of the land where they are operating in. After all, they are operating in other countries, so why is Nigeria’s case different, he noted.Speaking further, he added that: “Reforms are coming and they will come. I have always told the seaport terminal operators that they should get ready for reforms. I have told the freight forwarders that it is important they consolidate. The problem with the reform is that it is either they are in sync with it or it comes and sweeps them away”.Also speaking at the seminar, Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi noted that port reforms in Nigeria have been successful and that Nigerian ports have improved tremendously.Afolabi who was represented by Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd) said that terminal operators, especially SIFAX Group have invested billions of Naira in acquiring ‎modern facilities at their terminal.He said that Ports and Cargo Terminal at the Tin Can Port has transformed and brought the Terminal up to standard comparable to what is obtainable in other advanced countries. He said that the company has equally exceeded its projections under the concession agreement.He however advocated that "the spirit underlining the port concession should‎ not apply to only terminal operators and shipping companies, but to other sub sectors including freight forwarders.On his part, Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Boniface Aniebonam acknowledged that even though enough has taken place at the port in the last 10 years, it has not transformed into low port cost.Aniebonam lamented that the cost of clearing cargoes at Nigerian port is increasing, while compliance to relevant regulations has dropped.Welcoming participants to the event, MARAN President; Mrs Ifeyinwa Obi emphasised the importance of appraising the 10 years of ports concession in Nigeria and to look at the gains and the challenges experienced so far with a view to collectively finding ways of proffering solutions towards improving on the existing successes.She observed that while some terminal operators have added value to the cargo handling process, other have fallen short of the expectations of government and ports users."There was no love lost between the port concessionaires and the users of their facilities, notably the customs brokers, due to the charges of the operators which are said to be outrageous.The terminal operators have often justified the charges which they claimed were necessitated by the galloping inflation that have pushed up the costs of operations.In addition, the terminal operators have encountered some operational challenges due to some intervening variables such as unfavourable government policies which have encumbered the operations of the operators""I want to believe the reasons some stakeholders are today calling for operational audit of the concession exercise is because all is not well with the programme, hence the need for this open discourse" she said 

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