The Shipping Lines Association of Nigeria (SAN) says that the arbitrary charges and tariffs, making the port expensive, are not from the shipping lines.
The SAN is an organisation made up of the largest and oldest shipping lines in the world, who operate here in Nigeria.
Some of these companies are nearly 200 years old and they came together on a voluntary basis to form the association.
What they mostly do is containerise movement of goods both in and out of Nigeria.
The Chairman of the association, Mrs Boma Alabi (SAN), in a news conference, in Lagos on Wednesday, noted that the charges were government income.
Alabi said that government agencies were given targets and that was an indirect taxation which impacts negatively on export and made the goods less competitive at the international market.
“Our ports are revenue driven, government agencies have targets which they bring in for the government, this is not the most sufficient way to run the port.
“Inefficiency, high charges does not rest with the shipping line. We collect the charges and pass it on to whoever it is that puts the regulations in place.
“There are so many agencies operating in the port and we have to obey whatever regulations that they put in place.
“Freight charges are not country specific, it is decided based on central issues with vessels and no shipping line targets Nigeria. That is not the commercial way of thinking,” she said.
She noted that some of the challenges members faced were experienced in other industries, and there was need to ensure the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
According to her, government has recognised this and its a work in progress.
Alabi said that members had serious issues with their containers which were stacked at Ijora for years.
“These containers are valuable assets which they want to get back and they are just sitting there.
“We want the containers to be brought back, so why should we now hold the container deposit when they are brought back?
“Compare the cost of a container to the container deposit made, you will understand that it’s in our interest to make sure the containers are brought back,” she said.
She noted that it was not the job of shipping lines to build container holding bays, as their job was to move containers from point A to point B.
“An inefficiency have been created at the port and shipping lines are asked to work around the inefficiency to make it efficient. How is holding bays going to help make the shipping more efficient.
“Why do we need the holding bay in the first place, are there holding bays in other countries, there are none. This is because the system is efficient, you turn around your containers in hours.
“Go to Singapore, these same vessels go there and they drop containers there. They are in and out 24 hours, you come to our ports, you have not finished till one week and then we are told to build a holding bay to hold the inefficiency,” she said.
She said that the inefficiency in the port was costing shipping lines, costing the exporters and even the importers.
As regard the Maritime Workers Union of Nigerian (MWUN) ultimatum on strike, Alabi said that they are partners, stakeholders in the industry, adding that their interest are the same.
“We want an efficient and profitable business, so that people will be paid well and get a good standard of living. Our workers here are not treated differently from our workers elsewhere, that I can assure you.
“Same global standards apply to our workers here. I have been involved with negotiations with unions in other industries and what I have found is that there are resistance to change where change can be for the better interest.
“But we are talking with the union and its not in the interest of anybody to have a strike at this time. We are going to make sure that the strike does not happen,” she said.
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