By Bayo Bernard
The Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC has been admonished to assert itself as the Economic Regulator of the maritime sector of the nation’s economy. The call was made recently at a training organized for select journalists by the Council in Lagos.
The wake up call came amidst perceived failure of the council to rein in defiant shipping companies and terminal operators in the country working against rules and regulations set by the council. For instance, some terminal operators have been increasing charges arbitrarily without recourse to the NSC, and when directed by the council to revert, they simply ignore such directive.
The NSC, according to analysts is the port’s Ombudsman, as such must live up to expectation of that role.
But the Hassan Bello-led council said it has done well in the face of various factors that challenge its role as an interventionist agency in the maritime sub sector of the economy since 2014 when it assumed the Economic Regulator role.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, represented at the event by Director, Special Duties, Eugene Nweke said the cooperation of the media is needed in the council’s quest to bring sanity to the industry.
Delivering a paper on the topic, The Role of Nigeria Shippers Council As An Interventionist Agency In the Maritime Sector, Cajetan Agu, Deputy Director, Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement Unit of the council, said the industry has not remained the same since former President Goodluck Jonathan administration directed the council to assume the sensitive role three years ago.
According to Agu, the role and mandate of the NCS is basically interventionist in nature, for instance, to create an effective rate in the shipping sector in line with the 2006 Concession Agreement signed by the terminal operator with the federal government.
Prior to 2014, the industry was marred by arbitrariness by some operators who capitalized on the vacuum that existed at the time, particularly terminal operators and shipping companies who demand excessive charges for their services.
But the council has since restored sanity to the industry through constant dialogues, consultations, sometimes had to bring down the hammer on erring parties when such is necessary, he said.
As part of its interventionists role, the council acting on petitions from JOF Nigeria Lmd, a logistic firm working for Nestle plc wrote to the NSC that GAC has refused to release ite containers since the goods entered the country more than three months after, the shipping company had refused to release the container until money was paid.
Apart from this, the council had intervened in the case of excessive demurrage charge against Cosco Shipping Company and Sunflag Steel Limited, leading to the recovery of $23,000.
Few weeks ago, the company mandated Cosco Nigeria Limited to refund N3.5 million to the petitioner.
Agu further explained that other milestones achieved by the council in last four years include, setting acceptable tariff and charges for terminal operators, preventing rip off of importers and port users. In the last six months the council has made returns of over N80 million from arbitrary demurrage levy.
Other specific interventions include, the reduction of cargo dwelling time in line with regional standards; reduction of shipping charges by 10 percent, to N23,000 from N26, 000.
The council has also instructed shipping companies to return container deposit charges within 10 working days after containers have been returned.
The most important action taken by the council so far, he explained is the progressive equipment audit of terminal operators to ascertain whether they have operational platforms in line with world standard.