By Eromosele Abiodun
The federal government has been advised to take advantage of the decline in patronage currently being experienced by the Cotonou ports to grow Nigeria’s RoRo business.
President, Auto Export Shipping (AES), Mr. Pete Bottino, gave the advice during a courtesy visit to SIFAX Group facilities in Lagos over the weekend.
He noted that the Cotonou RoRo vehicle market, which previously was a booming market in the West Coast, has suffered a significant decline in patronage, a situation he described as a big opportunity for Nigeria to explore in order to grow her earnings.
He said: “As a highly-rated carrier in the United States, we used to export two large vessels to the Cotonou ports on a weekly basis, but I must tell you that this market has crashed now and we only manage to export a small fraction there now. At present, our company would prefer to ship cargoes to Nigerian ports rather than Cotonou ports. This is an opportunity that Nigeria and its government must key into, if they want to grow their earnings.”
In order to take advantage of this, Bottino urged the federal government to urgently address the challenge of foreign exchange that has negatively affected businesses in the country.
“Right now, because of the foreign exchange problems in Nigeria, the business is down. I believe once the government gets that sorted out, more customers will be bringing in lot more cars, especially trucks and machine equipment. This is what everybody wants, but because of the foreign exchange problems, people don’t buy cars and send to Nigeria anymore, they send them to other countries. Nigeria has to get the foreign exchange problems fixed,” he added.
The AES boss commended SIFAX Group for the genuine commitment displayed so far in building a solid business relationship with his company as shown in its business acumen, problem-solving skill and excellent customer service shown in the vehicle importation service.
He said: “AES and SIFAX Group are jointly revolutionising the RoRo industry in Nigeria with the one-stop shop service that includes port terminal services, stevedoring, ship agency and off-dock services.
“For the first time in our business relations in Nigeria, my team and I in the United States can feel and sense that people are trying their best to grow the RoRo vehicle industry in Nigeria and we feel highly confident with these gestures.”
“We have started conversations with the company from 2012 and we simply had no choice than to choose them because the company’s vision of growth, forward movement and becoming a dominant force in the Nigerian shipping industry is in tandem with AES vision. When you have a company whose vision is the same with yours, one has no choice than just to do business with them. I can assure all Nigerians and importers that the AES/SIFAX Group partnership is here to stay.”
Responding, the Group Managing Director of SIFAX Group, Mr. John Jenkins, thanked the AES boss for the visit, while assuring him and other stakeholders in the business – consignees, agents, among others of the company’s readiness to exceed expectations through provision of excellent service for which the company is noted for.