searchlight on the activities of shipping agents, freight forwarders and operatives of government agencies at the ports as part of measures to curtail high cost of doing business at the ports.
Bello told the stakeholders that drastic changes in the industry affects the Customs of trade, expansion of international trade, advancement in technology among others are in response to the changing demands of shippers.
He said the development came with different innovations such as the introduction of e-commerce to simplify procedure, multimodal transportation services as a solution to an integrated door-to-door transport services.
Bello explained that NSC by its statutory function is the ombudsman in the industry. “Our desire is to create better understanding and synergy amongst shippers, freight forwarders, operators of transport modes and other stakeholders.
Emphasising the strategic role of an economy and the port, Bello said increasing the quality of services in the port will not only tremendously bring down cost but will also enhance customer satisfaction.
Bello added: “Increased international trade and a good business environment will no doubt give Nigerian ports competitive edge among the ports in the sub-region.”
Haastrup, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of ENL Consortium, operators of Terminals A and B at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa explained recently that despite the reduction in terminal handling charges by terminal operators in 2006, cost of doing business at the port may have remained high because of the activities of other stakeholders.
“At the ports, there are so many factors that can militate against bringing down costs of operations. We have so many people who operate within the port system. We have the concessionaires, the ship agents, clearing agents and numerous government agencies.
“The concessionaires are not responsible for the increase in the cost of operations at the ports. There are shipping agents, clearing agents and others. Who’s looking into their activities? Shipping agents’ tariffs are even higher than terminal operators’ charges but nobody talks about that. There are a lot of charges that the ship agents are not supposed to charge but they do. Who’s looking at those things?” Haastrup asked.
She said it is unfair to blame terminal operators, otherwise known as concessionaires for the cost of doing business at the port.
“The concessionaires have put in a lot of investments for efficient operations. For instance, within one year that we took over, we were able to increase the turnaround of vessels by about 75 per cent; in three to four years, we had doubled that. In five to six years, we had increased the same by over 200 per cent. If you do not develop the port or you do not invest in port operations, there is no way you can achieve that”, she stated.
She also blamed patronage of neighbouring ports on Federal Government policies, “ordinarily, people will not go to Republic of Benin because of high cost on the part of terminal operators. They go there because of Federal Government policies pure and simply. That is the only reason people are going to Republic of Benin”.
BY MOSES EBOSELE