SC Cuts Shipping Charges At Seaports
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) yesterday said it has been able to reduce cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports by reducing shipping charges from 22 to five in the last few years.
This was disclosed by the executive secretary of the Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, when he paid a courtesy visit on the newly- elected president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Engr. Mansur Hamed at the MAN House, Ikeja.
Bello said the inefficiencies of the seaports had led to diversion of cargoes to neighbouring ports but that major reforms introduced by the Council has attracted cargoes to the Nigeria.
He said, “We are considering measure to reduce cost of transportation include review of local shipping charges and tariff nomenclature, improving of country connectivity index, automation and upgrade of the transport infrastructure and genuine fight against corruption.
“We engaged the shipping agents and we have already agreed on a structured and harmonised tariff nomenclature. The rate of charges are being reviewed and agreed and will be presented to stakeholders especially MAN for validation.
“We use to have 22 charges but now, they have been compressed to five charges, we are negotiating because Nigeria is a country of law and we respect contract and Nigeria welcome investors but it behoves on us to ensure that the climate for investment is friendly.
“The proliferation of charges is dangerous to the economy because manufacturers, importers must plans but if cost spring up like mushroom, the whole things will collapsed. We have look at totality of this charges, reduces them and collapsed them into five.
“That is not that charges will not rise but to be negotiated and if we are to negotiate, people who know where the shoe pinches like MAN will be part of it. We are happy that the shipping companies are looking at it progressively.”
Speaking on why the nation had to reduce the charges to five, Bello said part of it was because Nigeria must be positioned to be a load centre or hub of maritime activities in the West and Central Africa sub region.
“The reason why people take their cargoes to neighbouring ports is because of efficiency. We have been able with other agencies emphasis efficiency and Nigerian port is efficient as a matter of fact, Nigeria ports have been gaining cargo from our competitor but for the gridlock at the road to the port, we suffer setback, Nigeria port would have been in competition with our neighbouring ports.
He stated further, “The cargo throughput has risen in contrast to the previous years and goes to show the effectiveness but we need to push, we need to see that Nigeria becomes hub, load centre and distribution center but we cannot do that by accident we need to look at policies, push them to see that the raw material we import have special space in the logistics base so that we produce and make Nigeria a manufacturing country rather than mere consumption country.”
The shippers council boss also disclosed that the reduction in charges from 22 to five had helped reduce shipping tariff to 25 per cent,adding that there can’t be increase in shipping charges anymore without the consent of the council.
He stated that the Council was engaging some shipping companies for out of court settlement , saying trade disputes cannot be resolved at the court.
“We want to see that there is reduction in tariff and our negotiations with shipping companies will translate to about 25 per cent reduction in tariff and that will ease MAN and other stakeholders.
“Also, more significantly is that we won’t be having haphazard or un-authorised or arbitrary increased in port charges anymore. All charges must be checked with Nigerian Shippers Council and we are all aware that all charges like congestion charges are introduced by one or two recalcitrant companies but we are able to stop that there are many charges that will come but we have stopped them.
“We want to have a regime, permanent disputes settlement mechanism, a mechanism that will check arbitrary port charges and that we are working.
“We are talking with two or three shipping companies for out of court settlement even though we have gotten judgement from the high and appeal court, but i have always said that the court is not the best places to settle this kind of dispute, there should be negotiation and Nigeria should not emasculate people who come here to invest but they must also respect the law of the country.”
Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has restated the need for the federal government to be cautious before ratifying the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
President of MAN, Mansur Ahmed, urged the federal government not to only consult but study and understand the implications of the free trade agreement before ratification.
“The position of MAN on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement has been very clear from the beginning. Nigeria is the largest economy in West Africa and the largest population. The impact of any major agreement to do with trade clearly will have greater impact on Nigeria than any other country.
“So we owe it to ourselves and to our economy that we should be very conscious of the potentials of not only the opportunities but also the risks to our economy. We need to study this very carefully to anticipate where there is likely to be risk to the economy or to the welfare of the people and to make sure that we agree on mitigating actions that will minimise these risks.
“The ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme has not been effective as it should be and up till today, our exporters are having tremendous problem exporting even from Nigeria to Ghana. If therefore, this is our experience within the West African sub region, we cannot take it for granted that the AFCFTA will be any better. So we want to make sure that we consult, study and understand how it is going to affect us and we take measures up front to make sure that we mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities for our economy,” he said.
Ahmed said the economy was presently going through challenging times, hence there could be no better time than now to fully diversify the economy.