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Council cuts shipping charges at Nigeria’s sea ports

The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) on Monday said
it has been able to reduce cost of doing business at the nation’s seaports by
reducing shipping charges from 22 to five in the last few years.

This was disclosed by the Executive Secretary of
the Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, when he paid a courtesy visit on the newly-
elected president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Engr.
Mansur Hamed at the MAN House, Ikeja.

Bello said the inefficiencies of the seaports had
led to diversion of cargoes to neighbouring ports but that major reforms
introduced by the Council has attracted cargoes to the Nigeria.

He said, “We are considering measure to reduce cost
of transportation include review of local shipping charges and tariff
nomenclature, improving of country connectivity index, automation and upgrade
of the transport infrastructure and genuine fight against corruption.

“We engaged the shipping agents and we have already
agreed on a structured and harmonised tariff nomenclature. The rate of charges
are being reviewed and agreed and will be presented to stakeholders especially
MAN for validation.

“We use to have 22 charges but now, they have been
compressed to five charges, we are negotiating because Nigeria is a country of
law and we respect contract and Nigeria welcome investors but it behoves on us
to ensure that the climate for investment is friendly.

“The proliferation of charges is dangerous to the
economy because manufacturers, importers must plans but if cost spring up like
mushroom, the whole things will collapsed. We have look at totality of this
charges, reduces them and collapsed them into five.

“That is not that charges will not rise but to be
negotiated and if we are to negotiate,  people who know where the
shoe pinches like MAN will be part of it.  We are happy that the
shipping companies are looking at it progressively.”

Speaking on why the nation had to reduce the
charges to five, Bello said part of it was because Nigeria must be positioned
to be a load centre or hub of maritime activities in the West and Central
Africa sub region.

“The reason why people take their cargoes to
neighbouring ports is because of efficiency. We have been able with other
agencies emphasis efficiency and Nigerian port is efficient as a matter of
fact, Nigeria ports have been gaining cargo from our competitor but for the
gridlock at the road to the port, we suffer setback, Nigeria port would have
been in competition with our neighbouring ports.

He stated further, “The cargo throughput has risen
in contrast to the previous years and goes to show the effectiveness but we
need to push, we need to see that Nigeria becomes hub, load centre and distribution
center but we cannot do that by accident we need to look at policies, push them
to see that the raw material we import have special space in the logistics base
so that we produce and make Nigeria a manufacturing country rather than mere
consumption country.”

The shippers council boss also disclosed that the
reduction in charges from 22 to five had helped reduce shipping tariff to 25
per cent,adding that there can’t be increase in shipping charges anymore
without the consent of the council.

He stated that the Council was engaging some
shipping companies for out of court settlement , saying trade disputes cannot
be resolved at the court.
“We want to see that there is reduction in tariff
and our negotiations with shipping companies will translate to about 25 per
cent reduction in tariff and that will ease MAN and other stakeholders.

“Also, more significantly is that we won’t be
having haphazard or unauthorised or arbitrary increased in port charges
anymore.  All charges must be checked with Nigerian Shippers Council
and we are all aware that all charges like congestion charges are introduced by
one or two recalcitrant companies but we are able to stop that there are many
charges that will come but we have stopped them.

“We want to have a regime, permanent disputes
settlement mechanism, a mechanism that will check arbitrary port charges and
that we are working.

“We are talking with two or three shipping
companies for out of court settlement even though we have gotten judgement from
the high and appeal court, but i have always said that the court is not the
best places to settle this kind of dispute, there should be negotiation and
Nigeria should not emasculate people who come here to invest but they must also
respect the law of the country.”

Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria
(MAN) has restated the need for the federal government to be cautious before
ratifying the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area

President of MAN, Mansur Ahmed, urged the federal
government not to only consult but study and understand the implications of the
free trade agreement before ratification.

“The position of MAN on the Africa Continental Free
Trade Agreement has been very clear from the beginning. Nigeria is the largest
economy in West Africa and the largest population. The impact of any major
agreement to do with trade clearly will have greater impact on Nigeria than any
other country.

“So we owe it to ourselves and to our economy that
we should be very conscious of the potentials of not only the opportunities but
also the risks to our economy. We need to study this very carefully to
anticipate where there is likely to be risk to the economy or to the welfare of
the people and to make sure that we agree on mitigating actions that will
minimise these risks.

“The ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme has not
been effective as it should be and up till today, our exporters are having
tremendous problem exporting even from Nigeria to Ghana. If therefore, this is
our experience within the West African sub region, we cannot take it for
granted that the AFCFTA will be any better. 

“So we want to make sure that we
consult, study and understand how it is going to affect us and we take measures
up front to make sure that we mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities
for our economy,” he said.

Ahmed said the economy was presently going through
challenging times, hence there could be no better time than now to fully
diversify the economy.


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