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Maritime stakeholders seek workable policy, engagement to tackle issues on port costs, charges

 R-L: Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd), Executive Director , SIFAX Off Dock ; Dr. Adewale Olawoyin, Lecturer and Staff Adviser, Maritime Forum, UNILAG; Chief Adebayo Sarumi, Former Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority and Chairman of the Occasion and Mariam Afolabi, daughter and representative of Dr. Taiwo Afolabi (MON), Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group at the third edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at the University of Lagos.

at the third edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) Conference sought for effective trade policy by the government, and sustained
discussions in order to address the issues concerning port costs and port

conference themed “ Port Costs & Port Charges:  A Recurring Decimal Under The Ports Reform
Regime” and chaired by a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports
Authority(NPA), Chief Adebayo Sarumi, weekend at the University of Lagos, Akoka
Lagos,  was  solely supported by the Sifax Group.

Delivering the key paper for the occasion, Otunba
Kunle Folarin, Chairman of the Ports Consultative Council, said that there must
be a balance between government’s policies and the economic realities, while
all concerned parties must perform their roles effectively.

Folarin said it was important and necessary for
government to have the political will to drive a desired port reform, while the
private operators of the terminals must on their part provide efficient service
as expected globally.

He said : “ All agreed 
processes and terms must be implemented without delay and transparency
must be entrenched in  the concessioning
and port reform process.
“Laws are made to promote port productivity and fair trade
competition, and not to create monopolies. Concessionaires’ obligations are not
to replace the responsibility of the Ports Authority.

“Port reform must be total and all-inclusive of the
key players who provide and consume port services including Nigeria Customs
Service, freight and logistics operators and law enforcement agencies, and the
NPA must monitor performance and compliance of their own obligations as well as
those of the concessionaires and other service providers in the enforcement of
the concessionning agreement.”

Speaking on the determinants of port costs and
charges, Maj. Henry Ajetunmobi(Rtd), who is the Executive Director, Sifax
Offdock Okota, Lagos, argued that appropriate costs for any service should be
negotiated and discussed by parties involved.

He said “Port cost cannot be externally imposed, and
it cannot be imposed by via a government order. It cannot be a one-off kind of
service. What is approved by a right price today may not and cannot be
appropriate tomorrow given the high volatility of the indices involved.”

Ajetunmobi also noted that terminal operators had to,
on taking off operations, provide water and electricity by themselves, thus
incurring additional costs of operations, which was not planned for.

Prince Olaiwola Shittu, a former President of the
Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), called for enforcement
of dialogue and the need to be committed to sustaining it for discussions of
critical issues of port costs and port charges concerning all parties.

Princess Vicky Haastrup, Chairperson of the Seaport
Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) blamed government for policy
somersault, which she said had diverted cargo meant for Nigeria to ports of
neighbouring countries.

While describing the state of the ports access roads
in Apapa as disheartening, Haastrup lamented the huge loss the situation was
causing terminal operators who now suffer delays and have to spend more on
operational costs for service delivery.

She said: “It is a shame to this country that access
to the ports should be as they are. In ENL, we have not been able to discharge
containers for up to three weeks. Ships that normally take eight days to
discharge is taking me two months to discharge. Have we not lost money there?”

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