Ship Owners, Operators Decry ‘Outrageous’ Port Bills

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Delta Shippers Association (DELSA), the umbrella body of ship owners, shipping companies and terminal operators in Delta ports, operating in Warri, Koko, Sapele and Burutu, on Monday wrote a petition to the Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority , NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, over what it termed the outrageous pilotage bills for industrial boats and barges operating within the country’s coastal waters.

The body, in a statement made available in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, complained that boat owners were being compelled by an NPA agent to pay in naira at the prevailing black market rate, as against the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rate.

Signed by the association’s Secretary, Mr Julius Ojeleme, DELSA argued that if not checked, the bills could snowball into billions of dollars which could negatively impact on the Nigerian economy.

“As a body we are not opposed to the payment of NPA statutory Pilotage Bills. We are not uncomfortable with the designation of the pilotage bills in USD. We also support the payment of statutory pilotage bills in Nigerian Naira using the CBN official exchange rate to get the naira equivalent.

“What we contest is the payment in Naira, using black market rate as the basis of conversion of the dollar equivalent as instructed by NPA through their Agent.
“We also posit that payments of pilotage by international vessels berthing in Nigeria should be designated in USD, as this is the international standard.

“In the circumstance of a dwindling Nigerian economy, what would be paramount will be a policy that will help to strengthen the Nigerian Naira. On the contrary, this NPA policy of paying Pilotage Bill in Naira but using black market rate is not only counterproductive but will obviously result in a more devastating economic situation”, it maintained.