The Nigerian Shippersâ€™ Council (NSC) has warned that any increase in tariff must follow set procedures and scientifically decided before an approval is given to the service provider in the maritime sector.
The process, according to the Council, will involve all parties on a negotiation table after a formal request for such increase has been submitted to the ports economic regulator by the service provider.
The Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello said the council wants to ensure that the provisions of the law as far as tariff setting by service providers were followed.
Insisting on a competitive tariff system in the interest of shippers and the shipping community, Bello said the NSC is laying emphasis on procedures being observed by service providers.
He explained that the Council was not adverse to raising tariffs or lowering them for that matter, but wants to ensure that all procedures are adhered to.
Bello said: â€œAll NSC is saying is not adverse to raising tariffs or lowering them for that matter, but there are procedures and these procedures are entrenched in the Nigerian laws, so we urge everybody to obey the law. The truckers are here, we are negotiating their tariffs. So, people should come and say, we want to raise tariff or we want to lower them as the case may be, because there are times when you need to do that. All we are saying is that you are operating in a clime of laws. Nigeria is country of laws, so please, come and abide with the laws of this country.â€
He also reasoned that the tariffs in Nigerian ports have to be considerably competitive with tariffs in other neighbouring ports â€œespecially those ports we are competing withâ€.
He assured that before taking any decision on tariff, the council considers a lot of factors, adding that the personnel of the economic regulator were competent in this area.
He disclosed that the NSC was working towards having a modern tariff system with the shipping companies.
According to him, the Council has been getting cooperation from shipping companies desirous of establishing machinery for future tariff setting.
Bello added: â€œThe issue of tariff is very important. We need to have a modern tariff system and we are working towards that, at least with the shipping companies. Now, tariff must be scientifically decided. We have to look at many factors. NSC has competence, well trained staff on tariff structure of the ports and we are looking at that.
â€œWe are getting cooperation from the shipping companies who are actually desirous of establishing machinery for future tariff setting. We are looking at competitive tariffs. It canâ€™t be all the same. But we have the minimum, we have the maximum within which to give them leverage. So this will emphasise the competition.â€
Bello added that such tariff system among the service providers will be such that the shipper has an option to make an economic decision on which terminal to choose to get his goods out while enjoying efficient, affordable cost and other advantages.
â€œWe need to see that the shipper has option. The shipper has the choice to take his goods where he has economic advantage. So, it is a question of efficiency. It is an economic decision by the shipper to say, let my goods come to terminal A rather than Terminal B because I get the goods faster, I pay less, I have efficiency, I have many other advantagesâ€, he said.
On how far the Council has gone in terms of getting refund from the shipping companies who ordered by the Appeal Court judgment to refund illegal charges they had collected over the years on shipping lines agency charges, (SLAC), Bello said the matter was currently in the Supreme Court.
He said, â€œIt is a court case in which the shipping companies have appealed to the Supreme Court. The case is now at the Supreme Court and that is the situation for now. But we are engaging stakeholders, the Ministry of Transportation is aware of this and also the Attorney General of the Federation.â€
He however disclosed that the NSC was more interested in establishing machinery for objective tariff structure rather than some punitive issues.