The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) is currently moving strongly to ensure that government agencies under the Ministry of Transportation are put under economic regulation so that they do not introduce charges without first seeking negotiation with the council.
THISDAY learnt that the NSC was worried that this has been the trend with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and has taken up the matter with the Ministry of Transport and the concerned agencies.
The federal government had in 2014 approved the appointment of NSC as the economic regulator for the nation’s seaports. As economic regulator for the ports, the council regulates the commercial activities of all operators in the ports industry, including terminal operators, shipping companies, importers, exporters and freight forwarders among others.
Since NSC was set up to fight the cause of importers and exporters, many operators believed that it is an interested party and may not be unbiased in its approach. The Council also owns and concessioned the development of six Inland Container Container Depots (ICDs) in various parts of the country.
Speaking on the issue, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of NSC, Mr Hassan Bello stated that having succeeded in getting the shipping companies to reduce charges, it will now focus attention on the government agencies to come to the council for negotiation of their new charges before they are introduced.
Bello explained that it was important for the NPA and other agencies to come to the negotiation table before introducing new charges because any charge from NPA could wipe out the gains of the agreement it is planning to sign soon with the shipping companies to reduce charges by 35 per cent.
The council estimates that 35 per cent reduction in charges by shipping companies will lead to savings of about N480 billion annually with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Bello said it was better to discuss charges before they were introduced because of the consequences on the shippers and the economy.
According to him, “We want NPA to come and negotiate with the Council if it wants to introduce new charges because a charge from NPA could wipe out all gains we have made.”
Bello referred to the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), which had introduced a charge and had to come for negotiation with the council when it was reminded to do so.
“So, if we can have such cooperation from an organisation outside the Ministry of Transport, why can’t we have with people inside,” he said.
Bello pointed out the issue of environmental fees being charged by both NPA and NIMASA, adding that this was a clear duplication of charges that would impact negatively on shippers.
“NIMASA is charging environmental fees, so also NPA is doing the same, and we can’t have that. That is duplication. This will raise the charges more on shippers. We want charges to be tied to services, ”he disclosed.
Bello said the NSC was getting a lot of support from the Ministry of Transportation to ensure that what was wrong could be corrected.
The NSC boss added: “We are also getting now to understand ourselves, each other or one another with NIMASA. For example, we are doing a lot of things with NIMASA. We think that coming together with NIMASA is very important as far as these charges are concerned.”
Bello had said that the implementation would begin once the MoU with shipping companies as agreed by the Ministry of Transportation comes into effect.
THISDAY had exclusively reported last week that after almost two years of negotiation and legal battles, the NSC will on behalf of the federal government sign a landmark agreement with shipping companies that will make charges by shipping companies reduce by 35 per cent or N258.38 billion annually.