Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has urged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to set up a taskforce to tackle extortion and gridlock along port access roads. According to its Lagos State Vice Chairman (dry cargo) sector, Abdullahi Mohammed Inuwa, the two government agencies should compel shipping companies and terminal operators to provide holding bays for trucks coming to drop empty or export containers at the ports.
He explained that lack of holding bays was responsible for the massive extortion by security operatives at the port access roads. Abdullahi, who spoke with our correspondent in Lagos, said that both NPA and NSC could not be exonerated from the current situation at the port since they allow shipping companies to manipulate their ways by not compelling them to provide holding bay for empty containers.
The vice president noted that some shipping companies, out of greed, had decided to force trucks with empty containers to ports in order to make more profit by cutting down cost and expenses of cargo handling equipment. He stressed that shipping companies should be paying for holding bay and transportation charges. Abdullahi said:
“This marked the beginning of the traffic gridlock, which has given some security agents opportunities in some strategic areas from Berger Yard, Trinity down to Coconut axis of the Apapa Oshodi Express road to collect illegal money ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 from truck drivers.
“After collecting the money, they allow the truckers to drive against traffic to Tincan Port, resulting to total blockage of road up to Liverpool and Apapa Port axis.” He said that container trucks should come to the port in batches from holding for shipment on request.
The vice president added that it was not proper to divert general public attention by saying that 6,000 trucks would be evacuated from Apapa -Wharf Road. According to him, “those trucks are not just there; they are either going to the port to drop empty containers or export containers. Which trucks do they what to
Shipping lines at crossroads over private armed guards
The use of contract armed security guards by shipping lines to deter piracy has been proscribed by the Federal Government despite increased robbery and weak policing of Nigerian waters. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
As the world’s navies could not control vast area in the high seas to secure all ships sailing to various ports, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in 2011 approved an interim guidance to shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters to use privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships transiting the high risk piracy areas in the Gulf of Guinea and other zones in the Gulf of Aden.
The development made ship owners to pay as much as $60,000 to armed security guards to secure and protect vessels and crew.
For instance in Nigeria, shipping lines claimed that they spent over $200 million annually to protect cargoes and their crew by placing armed guards on board merchant vessels because of the menace of armed robbery in the Niger- Delta area.
However, the Federal Government said last week that such practice would no longer be business as usual for liners sailing on Nigerian waters.
Nigerian coasts have already been labeled as the hotbed of piracy and sea robbery.
The Government said that it was illegal and against Nigerian constitution for private armed guards to operate onboard vessels.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, in Lagos, said that there were reasons to be worried about armed guards.
He noted that the private armed guards would not perform their anti-piracy duties in a way that does not escalate violence, involve unlawful use of force or cause international incidents.
Although Malami acknowledged that Nigeria’s waters was an alluring area for criminal activities such as piracy, armed robbery at sea, maritime terrorism, and a host of other vices, on the other hand, he explained that under the Nigerian law, armed guards were not permitted on merchant vessels within her waters.
The AGF, who was represented by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Financial Crimes, Biodun Aikomu, at the recent Lagos International Maritime Week, said that security on Nigerian waters remained the prerogative of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
He said that the National Assembly had enacted laws to address specific issues relating to maritime security and operations including the NIMASA Act, Cabotage Act among other international conventions, which Nigerian is a signatory to.
He noted: “The question as to the legality or otherwise of armed guards on merchant vessels in Nigeria is quite straight forward, under Nigerian law, armed guards are not permitted on merchant vessels within the Nigerian waters.”
In considering the legality or the use of armed guards on Nigerian flagged vessels, he said that important consideration had been given to the legal regime of the Flag State (Nigeria) vis-a vis the legal regimes of other states in a given situation.
Malami explained that there should be no express authorisation of vessel owners to have private armed guards on board.
He said that in Nigeria, individuals were not permitted to own or use fire arms except licence is sought and obtained in respect of such firearms.
The AGF said that giving such permit was expressly prohibited under Section 17 of the Private Companies Guard Act.
Despite his explanation, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said that the attacks on vessels berthing at the Lagos Port Complex were worrisome.
The Managing Director of the authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, said at a stakeholders’ meeting in Apapa, Lagos that the management was considering a number of strategies to check the attacks.
The managing director noted such strategies when reinforced, would bring to book those behind the attacks on vessels berthing at the Lagos Port Complex.
Usman noted that more patrol boats would be acquired to patrol waterfronts.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, explained that the Nigerian maritime domain requires the commitment of all stakeholders to ensure optimum safety of investments in the sector.
He stated that there were a lot of factors that had contributed to the cost of products coming into the country through the seas, which makes it very important to tackle insecurity in the waterways.
He said: “The only way we can tackle maritime crime is for all of us to work together. There have been several regional initiatives in that respect to tackle maritime crime.
“Apart from the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, you have the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy, you have the Gulf of Guinea Commission dealing with the same thing there are several sub-regional and regional initiatives to tackle maritime insecurity so I see a lot of potential in regional collaboration and integration.”
Government should invest in maritime security, domesticate international conventions it ratified and enforce them in order to boost shipping in the country.
Bonded terminal operators lose 90% workforce
About 20 bonded terminals in Lagos have sacked 90 per cent of their staff due to lack of job, Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria (BTON) has said.
It was learnt that each terminal employs up to 500 staff aside the 10,000 auxiliary workers.
Executive Secretary of BTON, Mr Haruna Omolajomo, said in Lagos that bonded terminals were operating below three per cent.
He noted that facilities worth about N3trillion in the terminals were wasting.
Omolajomo noted that bonded terminals in Lagos were not allowed to function very well due to lack of cargoes from the main port.
The executive secretary urged the National Assembly to enact a law to recognise bonded terminal as an extension of ports in Nigeria in order to remain in business.
Omolajomo explained that the legislation was necessary to reduce unemployment and to save their N3trillion investments.
Omolajomo explained that lack of cargoes had demoralised some of the bonded terminal operators in the country, saying some of them were indebted to banks.
He said salaries of workers had not been paid for a year in some terminals.
According to him, “some terminals have sacked about 95per cent of their staff. Where they are supposed to have about 500 staff, they have only seven and the seven are just overseeing the property on ground so that people will not steal them.”
Omolajomo said that certain percentage of cargoes should automatically be assigned to bonded terminals as the extension of ports.
He said: “We have about 20 bonded terminals and each of them have sacked 90 per cent of their staff. Today, no bonded terminal operates more than three per cent, they operate below three per cent.”
National fleet: Ship owners fret over slow pace
Following the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in 1995, a new national fleet being conceived to boost shipping in the country is still crawling as the Federal Government failed to amend the Maritime Act. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Shipowners are at crossroads over the establishment of a national fleet to boost domestic and international shipping in the country largely dominated by foreign liners.
The plan to float a national fleet was mooted in 2016, when the Federal Ministry of Transportation set up a National Fleet Implementation Committee, headed by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello.
This idea came to fruition 23 years after the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
The shipping line was established by the Federal Government in 1959. Despite heavy investment and subsidies, the company with its 24 vessels was unable to compete with European and Asian lines.
However, Malaysia, which started its shipping line almost the same time with Nigeria, survived with 245 ships of various sizes and types. As at 1995, all the 24 fleet under the defunct NNSL had disappeared.
Presently, the country has no national fleet to boost local and international trade despite the fact that 92 per cent of all import/export cargo in and out of the country is via seaborne trade.
Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said the inability of local investors to raise funds for equity participation stalled the establishment of a national fleet and licensing of private national carriers.
He said that the recession had also made it difficult for Nigerian ship owners to raise funds to take up the 60 per cent equity under the new arrangement with a Singaporean liner, Pacific International Lines (PIL).
Nigeria and Singapore had reached an agreement to establish a private sector-driven national carrier with stake holding of 60 to 40 per cent respectively.
Peterside also blamed shipowners for not coming forward to apply for the national carrier status.
He said: “There is no 60 per cent of the equity that can be picked up anywhere and so that is why the process seems fairly long.”
However, it was learnt that the only saving grace was the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in August 2016 between the Federal Government and PIL, but the Nigerian maritime laws obstructed the process as the government was reluctant to amend the loopholes in the Maritime Act, which could enhance the growth of the industry.
For instance, President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, said at a shipowner forum in Lagos that Nigeria’s tax laws had put off PIL from the MoU because of its unfavorable terms and policies.
He recalled that the firm put it in writing that unless the tax laws were reviewed, it won’t be able to fly Nigerian flag as planned.
In the MoU, Ogbeifun said that PIL had initially wanted to provide the Joint Venture (JV) or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that was more of expertise, where it would provide the managing director/ chief executive officer, chief operating officer and Nigeria would provide the chief executive officer.
He said: “We said no, and that became the subject of further discussion and negotiation. At the end, it was agreed that PIL would bring the managing director /chief executive officer; while Nigeria will bring a deputy managing director; they will bring a chief operating officer and Nigeria will bring a deputy chief operating officer and chief finance officer, while they will bring a deputy chief finance officer. You may be aware that the PIL is a large international shipping company with a lot of experience internationally and in Nigeria for long.
Ogbeifun said that Nigeria saw benefits in leveraging on the company ’s worldwide experience, noting that the company had over a hundred ships in its fleet worldwide.
But the president noted that Nigeria lacked political will to implement the comprehensive report and recommendations made by a committee set by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to study and make recommendation for the revamping and restructuring of the country’s flag administration in order to make it more attractive for international patronage.
For instance, Ogbeifun said that the government had failed to review the country’s tax laws and policies as it has been done in other maritime countries.
He explained that Nigeria had not been able to midwife the emergence of a Nigerian fleet, whether private fleet or fleet resulting from public private partnership.
Ogbeifun lamented that Nigerian flagged tankers were already disadvantaged.
The president explained that Nigeria’s flag administration was extremely weak to the extent that the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), which owns a large fleet trading worldwide, could not register its ships in the Nigerian flag in other to boost Nigerian tonnage.
Government should amend the laws impeding maritime business as done in other countries in order to boost shipping and earn more revenue.
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