Maritime Sector Records Fair Performance

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Eromosele Abiodun writes that aside the Apapa traffic logjam that is costing importers and exporters billions of naira, the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Nigerian Customs Service recorded impressive achievements in the outgoing year

The year 2018 cannot be said be too different from the previous year for stakeholders in the maritime sector aside the improvement in the availability of foreign exchange. The year began with the hope that the Apapa traffic logjam that has become a shame of a nation would be solved. However, despite the effort of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), not much improvement was noticed. Credit however, must be given to the NPA for its collaboration with Dangote Group and Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc to fix a section of the port access road.

Also, following the improvement in foreign exchange, vessel traffic has increased in all the ports across the country. As the vessel traffic continued to grow it became obvious that existing port infrastructure, which were allowed to rot by successive governments, cannot sustain a country that rely on imported goods for majority of its needs. Despite the fact that the maritime sector is said to be next to crude oil in terms of revenue for the government, the sectors’ contribution to the nation’s gross domestic products (GDP) is still very low if not insignificant. As a matter of fact, the sector is not even captured in the nation’s GDP by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Experts believe the Nigerian maritime sector is weak and cannot compete favourably with its contemporaries around the world.

“You can’t pin down what the Nigerian Maritime Industry contributes to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product and this is because 80 to 90 per cent of vessels that come into the country are foreign vessels. The foreign vessels owners repatriate the profit accrued from the shipping business in Nigeria to their various countries thereby making it difficult for Nigeria to retain the money in the economy,” said a lecturer at the Lagos Business School (LBS), Dr Frank Ojadi.

Despite the many troubles bedevilling the nation’s maritime, credit must be given to the NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and to some extent the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) for braving all to succeed in 2018.

NPA Remains Outstanding
When measured against the rot that defined the maritime sector in the previous years, the efforts of the NPA at improving the maritime industry can only be described as stellar. In a bid to ensure that her reforms succeed, the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman introduced quarterly stakeholders’ meeting, which was held across the country. Aside the implementation of suggestion by critical stakeholders, the NPA also introduced feedback mechanism to ensure nothing is left to chance. It is important to note that mid 2017 Bala-Usman was just one year in office.

Some critics had argued that she do not have the experience to run such a huge enterprise having only worked at the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) before being appointed chief of staff to the Kaduna state governor.
However, all the doubts have now been put to rest as the NPA boss has recorded significant achievements. Among her many achievements was the drive to ensure that operators are held accountable.

Also, she has ensured that business is done easier and cheaper across the nation’s ports. Another major achievement of the NPA boss was the redeployment of two southerners to head the London and Abuja liaison office of the agency for the first time in recent history.

She also made effort to improve the standard of operation at the ports in order to increase cargo traffic in and out of the country.

She was quoted to have said at a forum during the year that the effort by her management to reform the ports is premised on the need to entrench efficiency, transparency and accountability in ports operations.

Ending Apapa Traffic
In a bid to put an end to the Apapa traffic logjam in the New Year, the NPA last week announced some measures. Among the measures, the NPA has directed shipping companies to immediately deploy sweeper vessels to evacuate empty containers from the ports to clear the backlog within four months. The NPA also directed the shipping companies to use of Onne Ports for such sweeper vessels.

According to the NPA the measures will reduce the attendant financial burden that the congestion at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports has brought on importers.

It said there would be an increase in rent-free period for cargoes housed in the terminals from the current period of three free days before commencement of rent charges to 21 free days before commencement of rent charges for a period of four months.

“With effect from Tuesday, December 18, 2018, there will be an increase in the demurrage free period on return of empty containers from the current five days period to 15 days for a period of four months. The Nigerian Customs Service is urged to immediately commence the process of auctioning of overtime cargoes. This is imperative as the ports are meant to be transit and not storage facilities. These auctions should be carried out on the spot at port locations and every buyer would be given a stipulated short period to evacuate the cargoes out of the ports after which they will be re-auctioned,” NPA said.

It added: “Terminal operators are however encouraged to negotiate and grant waivers to consignees to facilitate the evacuation of these cargoes to mitigate against the auctioning which will result in a total loss of revenue by the terminal operator and the loss of cargo by the consignee. The Authority wishes to state that these measures are emergency steps taken to immediately reduce the financial burden of congestion on citizens as the federal government proceeds to permanently resolve the congestion through the following: reconstruction of the port access road, the provision of trailer park and holding bays with e-call up system, the enhancement of cargo evacuation using rail transportation and inland waterways with barges among others.

“The authority recognises the financial implications of these policies on the terminal operators and shipping companies and will consider a shift in our operational charges to ameliorate the situation of stakeholders.”

NIMASA’s Global Recognition
The outgoing year can be said to be one of the best for NIMASA as the agency recorded many firsts, gaining global recognition in the process. Some of the major achievements include: the acquisition of a floating dockyard for Nigeria; improvement of security in Nigeria’s territorial waters, training of thousands cadets and most the turnaround of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron. Also, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, was re-elected the Chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA), for another term.

According to the Chief Operating Officer and Acting CEO of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Sobantu Tilayi the leadership style of the NIMASA boss has brought better relationship amongst the leaders of the maritime administrations on the continent. He added that there is no better way to sustain the tempo than to re-elect Peterside to continue to lead the charge.

Also, the United States Coast Guard commended the NIMASA for its efforts to improve security and operational efficiency within Nigeria’s maritime domain.

The commendation was given in Lagos by a visiting coast guard team led by Lt Commander Janna Ott.
Ott, a representative of the US Coast Guard in International Port Security Programme, said NIMASA had taken laudable steps to improve Nigeria’s compliance with the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) code.
“You do have a really great team here. They were very helpful. I thank them for their frank and open discussion in allowing us to give them our observations. Hopefully, they can take whatever we have given them to heart and start working on them right away,”Ott said.

She, however, urged greater vigilance in terms of access to the ISPS zones at the ports.
“It’s very important that you know in your port facilities who is gaining access and they are authorised to be there before they go through those gates of the ISPS zone, ”Ott stated.

“You also need to be consistent with the proficiencies of all the security personnel in holding people accountable that are coming through those port facilities. We already had a very good discussion with NIMASA, ”she added.
Responding, the Director General of NIMASA, Peterside, said the country had made significant progress in addressing the issue of access control around the port areas.

Peterside, who spoke through NIMASA’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bashir Jamoh, said: “The issue of access control is one of the paramount areas. The access road, access control, those are very important areas. Similarly, on access control, we just introduced stickers to the ports. We started implementing it early this month.”

He said the federal government had taken measures in partnership with the private sector to ensure that all port facilities in Nigeria were easily accessed.

He said NIMASA had recorded steady progress in its implementation of the ISPS Code, stressing that Nigeria has moved from implementation to enforcement.

He told the US Coast Guard team that “The issues you mentioned, we are dealing with them. One of the things we have introduced is training. We are aware that some of the facilities have these issues. Right now, most of them are going into biometric access control, which you observed in some of the terminals, like MRS, Five Star Logistics, etc.

“We would do more in training and continuous visit to these facilities and create better awareness for them to implement effective access control strategies. We will be consistent in the things we do because we have our executive management’s buy-in and support to do our job.
“In fact, we have gone from just implementation to enforcement, where after several engagements and if facilities do not comply with those required standards, we start to sanction them and even get them shut down.”

NCS Improved Revenue Collection
The 2018 can be said to be of the best in recent history of the NCS. Aside major improvement in revenue collection, the NCS was a nightmare for smugglers in 2018. However, the NCS major drawback in the year was its inability to auction overtime cargos that was partly responsible for port congestion. Showcasing its achievement last week in Lagos, the NCS announced that it generated revenue of N1.1trillion in the last 11 months in 2018.
The NCS also said it seized goods with duty paid value of N40billion between the months of January and November this year.

National Public Relations of the NCS, Mr Joseph Attah, who announced this during said with the revenue figure, the NCS has not only broken the figure for last year which was N1.037trillion but surpassed it.
He described the figures as a clear testimony that the reforms embarked upon by the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col Hammed Ali (rtd) was impacting positively on productivity.

“Today, I am happy to announce that the Service has already broken 2017 record with N1.1 trillion revenue. This is no doubt a clear testimony of the fact that the ongoing reforms of the service are impacting positively on productivity.

“Rice and other perishable items are being given to the victims of the unfortunate insurgency in the North-East. So far, a total of 424,391 (50kg) bags of rice worth N4,047,615,000.00 and other seized perishables have been distributed to IDPs in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo states.

“The Controller-General of Customs has therefore sought and obtained presidential approval to extend distribution of these relief items to other IDP camps and registered orphanages across the country.”

As part of the war against smuggling, Attah said 4,010 seizures with a duty paid value of N40billion were recorded.
He described as outstanding among the seizures the 59X40ft containers of tramadol and other concealed drugs at Appa and Onne ports.

He also said that the total number of 238,094 50 kg of bags of rice were seized across the country in the period between January to November.

Attah said so far 806 vehicles were disposed under electronic auction with the exercise producing 753 winners who paid N346,146,349.

He also added that 424,391 bags of rice worth N,047.615,000.00 and other perishable items were distributed to IDPs in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo states.