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Shippers’ Council Maps Out Measures To Enthrone Efficiency




SINCE its appointment as the economic regulator of Nigerian ports by the Federal Government, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has demonstrated that it understands the problems of the ports and how to tackle them. It has, therefore, forged ahead with the transformation of the ports to world-class standards in all ramifications.

Only recently, the Council announced measures for a new port order that would reduce the cost of doing business and achieve overall efficiency in Nigerian ports. Under this policy measure, the Council has designed a template and standard tariff system that would ensure 30 to 40 per cent reduction in tariff.

The Council is also establishing a new platform for every stakeholder to integrate. In doing this, it is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) so that every payment is reflected in the platform.

Part of the order is that very container arriving the nation’s ports will have to be scanned as they are being discharged from the shipside before being moved away for stacking.

In a recent interview with journalists, Executive Secretary of the NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello explained that the Council designed the new port order as part of its statutory roles as the Ports Regulator.  He said: “NSC is establishing a new platform for everyone to integrate. It is working with the CBN and Customs Service so that every payment is reflected in the platform. In doing this, it has designed a template and standard tariff system that will ensure 30 to 40 per cent reduction in cost and harmony in tariff. This involves all service providers. The system harmonises every transaction in such a way that transfer of containers to off-dock terminal does not attract extra charge in terms of payment of royalty to the terminal operator. That practice will be discontinued as it amounts to double charges to the shippers.”

Bello further explained that “the idea of harmonising the system gives transparency as the importer trades with certainty as to how much to pay and how long to take delivery of the goods. Seen as a new port order, it will eliminate all the wastages in the system so that the cost of doing business is reduced.”

Bello added: “Part of the arrangement is that the owner of the cargo should know when his cargo arrives to prepare him to make arrangements to clear his goods in good time. The new order involves a situation where the cargo is scanned before it is stacked.  As the ship is discharging, the cargo is also being scanned, and the image is used by the Customs Service to commence clearing process. In terms of segregating the cargo for whatever line of inspection, such as green, yellow and red light as the case may be, this is how it is done all over the world. IMO wants all cargo to be pre-scanned before stacking.”

Bello also said that the NSC would establish a robust platform that would create a port community system involving every player, what he/she does, timing of activity and cost for such activity.

“It is a command and control centre that creates a nexus between all existing systems in the industry. It is a means of integration. What we are doing is to make it easier for all stakeholders to benefit from what we are doing. It is for agents, inspection stations or ship inspection, shipping companies, real infrastructure operators within the ports, ports authority, maritime administrators, Customs, terminal operators, road haulers, exporters and transporters,” he explained.

He noted that the objective of creating the platform is to establish a framework where the competitiveness of the industry would be enhanced beyond its neighbouring ports like Cotonou, Ghana and Cameroun, among others.

“It is to improve safety, security, integration of an intelligent processing of data from all stakeholders and other information. Another objective is that it is a better way of tracking of dangerous goods and risk mitigation. It will also harmonise and simplify administrative and clearance procedures by the establishment of business networks and supports; and improve the efficiency of shipping services in Nigeria. The maritime electronic highway that will evolve from the platform will be accessible for only users who collaborate with the NSC at this point in time,” Bello explained.

He noted that already, every operator or agency in the ports industry has embraced automation, a measure he described as part of the benefits of ports regulation.

Bello, however, explained that there have been challenges in regulating the ports but hinted that every stakeholder has a good story to tell. He added that for the seaport terminal operators, there has been guaranteed return on their investment and increased profitability.

He also said that there have been improved revenue generation, improved infrastructure development, creation of efficient market, reduction of cost of doing business, improvement of the nation’s Global Competitive Index and consequent attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for those in the transport and logistics chain.

For the shipping companies, he identified improved delivery of marine and terminal handling services that led to reduced turnaround time of vessel and reduced cost of vessel operations as some of the benefits. He also added that there has been positive achievement due to Customs’ confidence, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness and consequent improvement in image.

Bello identified strengthening of complaint and arbitration mechanisms, prompt issuance of ship sailing certificate and the consequent avoidance of demurrage accumulation against shipping companies as among the benefits.

On the effect of regulation on the NPA, he said there has been enthronement of clearer Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) derived from international laws and practices. Other benefits, according to him, include transparency, efficiency and effectiveness and consequent improvement in image, revenue generation, competitive advantage in the sub-region, strengthening of complaint and arbitration mechanism.

He equally identified the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), importers, exporters and freight forwarders as having benefited from the economic regulation in the ports.

Other benefits of regulation, according to him, include “harmonisation of clearing processes and procedures and the consequent reduction in cost and time of cargo clearing, reduction of cargo duel time, strengthening of complaint and arbitration mechanisms, predictability in processed and procedures, assurance of level playing ground, availability of common user information service provided by the regulator, and strengthening of complaint and arbitration mechanism.”

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