FG Charge Nigerian Shippers’ Council to slash port charges

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has ordered the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, to carry out a comprehensive audit of all seaport terminals in Nigeria to ascertain their efficiency and competitiveness.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo made this known at the opening session of a three-day sub-regional summit on high shipping charges which ends today in Abuja.

At the summit which focused on the theme, ‘Unfair Shipping Surcharges and High Local Shipping Charges at the Ports of West and Central Africa Sub-region’ hosted by the NSC, Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, told the participants that it was necessary to check the unfair trade practices in the maritime sector.

He stated: “The Federal Government has mandated the NSC in her capacity as the port economic regulator to carry out a comprehensive audit of all seaport terminals in Nigeria to ascertain their efficiency and competitiveness.

“Government will ensure that the outcome of the audit report will be fully implemented for improved port operation. The report of the audit will also spell out the responsibilities of terminals and the Federal Government.”

He added, “The Council is further mandated to monitor and supervise compliance to the standard operating procedures by all port agencies and port service providers for improved service delivery.” He told participants at the summit that the government was aware of the disturbing cost of transportation of goods through the ports in the West Africa sub-region.

This, he said, was due to high freight rates and arbitrarily imposed surcharges such as Bunker Adjustment Factor, Currency Adjustment Factor, War Risk Surcharge, Congestion Surcharge, Peak Season Surcharge, and Port Operation Recovery Surcharge.

“The process of introduction of these surcharges lacks transparency and are not based on verifiable and available statistics,” the vice-president stated. He noted that the unilateral and arbitrary imposition of such surcharges in West and Central Africa-bound cargo was contradictory to the norms and ethics of maritime transport. Osinbajo said, “These surcharges amount to huge sums of illegal capital flight from countries of the sub-region depleting their limited foreign exchange and reserves.”

He pointed out that the overarching objective of the summit was to enable the sub-region to adopt a common position on how to reduce the incidences of unfair surcharges.

Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, the Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive of the NSC, Hassan Bello, said the management of the Council has already commenced the audit process.

He explained that the port operator has a correlation with what happens across other parts of the shipping industry. He said the audit will look at the equipment they use, the functionality of the equipment and the turnaround time for container operations.

Bello stated: ‘‘It is in the interest of everybody, stakeholders, port users to ensure that the ports are efficiently managed as this will manifest in the Apapa traffic situation in the long run.”