FG Commissions Shippers’ Council To Audit Terminal Operators

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The Federal Government want a comprehensive audit of all port terminal operators by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), to ascertain their efficiency. Coming about 13 years after the nation’s seaports were concessioned to private sector operators, government also decried the arbitrarily high shipping charges in West and Central Africa sub-region and called for a downward review of the charges to promote trade among countries in the sub-region.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo gave the directive in Abuja at the opening of a three-day sub-regional summit on ‘Unfair Shipping Surcharges and High Local Shipping Charges at the Ports of West and Central Africa Sub-region’ hosted by the NSC.

He told the gartering that, “the Federal Government has mandated the NSC in her capacity as the port economic regulator to carry out a comprehensive audit of all seaport terminals in Nigeria to ascertain their efficiency and competitiveness”.

The Vice President, who was represented by the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi, assured that government will implement the outcome of the audit.

“Government will ensure that the outcome of the audit report will be fully implemented for improved port operation. The report of the audit will also spell out the responsibilities of terminals and the Federal Government”, he assured.

He added that, the council is further mandated to monitor and supervise compliance to the standard operating procedures by all port agencies and port service providers for improved service delivery.”

He acknowledged that the cost of transportation of goods through the ports in the sub-region was exorbitant,  even as he added that “the process of introduction of these surcharges lacks transparency and are not based on verifiable and available statistics”.

He noted that the unilateral and arbitrary imposition of such surcharges on West and Central Africa-bound cargo was contradictory to the norms and ethics of maritime transport.

Meanwhile, the minister in his address reiterated the need for the UASC member states to collaborate to check activities of shipping lines servicing the ports in the sub-region.

Amaechi also stressed the need for a direct consultation with the ship owners rather than use of third parties to reduce cost.

“The Federal Government through the NSC has been using its influence in the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) to resolve cases affecting Nigeria’s trading interest,” Amaechi said.

On his part, the Executive Secretary of Shippers’ Council, Mr Hassan Bello while reiterating the importance of collaboration between UASC member states, said the Council had been engaging Nigeria’s shipping lines on reduction of shipping charges.

According to him, reduction of cost is the responsibility of all stakeholders including the government in ensuring the provision of modern, efficient, integrated and connected transport infrastructure.

“It is also important that government encourages transparent processes and procedures and generally ensure that an efficient, competitive and friendly environment is created.

“It is important to state that in the long run, arbitrary and unilateral increase in charges will not benefit operations or general procedures in our countries.

“Transport should be appropriately priced with the aim of providing balance and equilibrium,’’ Bello added.

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