NIGERIAN MARITIME STAKEHOLDERS COUNT LOSSES:  …AS 2018 ENDS ON SAD NOTE FOR THE SECTOR

Isaac Ombe

Like any other sector, Nigeria’s maritime sector had great expectations and dreams in 2018. Some of the dreams were realised but not without setbacks as expected in any process of progress.

There must always be hiccups in the road to success, and the maritime sector wasn’t an exception in this regard. The sector went through the bad, the good and the ugly before the year finally rounded up

Amongst the successes recorded in 2018 included amongst others, the seizure of firearms by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), to the successful receipt of one of the largest oil production facility in the world – Egina FPSO (Floating Production Storage Offloading

Although some legislative bills that have been hanging with the National Assembly were eventually passed in the course of the year, but Presidential Accent is still hanging on some of them, like that of the National Transport Commission(NTC)

The Federal Government had, early in the year, made concerted efforts to revive the dwindling maritime sector through several policies which majorly came in the form of Executive Orders, such as the championing of “Ease of Doing Business Directive” by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on May 19, 2018. But these efforts did not achieve the very goals set by government, which stakeholders in the maritime sector see as monumental failure on the part of government in addressing the challenges in the

The major stakeholders that were expected to uphold the order, rather grossly violated it, many government agencies flouted the order without regard to the constituted

Insecurity on Nigerian waterways

Rising cases of pirate attacks on ships around the Nigerian waters have further jeopardised the quest for heightened sea trade in the country.

Already, the continued spate of pirate attacks, which has been condemned by maritime organisations globally, has forced shipping firms to place a war risk insurance premium on all vessels that call at Nigerian

This, according to the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, “leads to high cost of cargo

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) report, showed that 41 cases of pirate attacks were recorded on Nigerian waters in the last nine months, while 29 crewmembers were

However, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, had challenged the fairness and balance in the reportage of piracy issues on Nigeria’s territorial waters.

The  NIMASA Boss  decried what he described as ‘exaggeration of reports’ on incidences on the country’s waterways by the IMB, a specialised department of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), dedicated to fighting maritime crime and

The year 2018, however witnessed positive efforts put in place to ensure better access roads to the nation’s ports.
The terminal operators, clearing agents and importers have continued to suffer untold hardship from the deplorable condition of ports access roads and the attendant traffic gridlock that have characterized the

Seaport users in Lagos have continued to lament the dire implications of the gridlock, which has taken its toll on the over N200 billion investment at the ports. The operators are now groaning. They can no longer meet their Guarantee Minimum Tonnage (GMT), on which their payment is

Nigeria deserves to have some of the best and most celebrated seaports in Africa, considering the enormous potential in the country. In actual fact, the ports in Lagos have capacity to handle much more cargo than they are already handling. However, the ports have been restricted due to poor cargo clearing processes, multiple government agencies, and very bad port access roads that have made the ports less

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in its maritime report had stated that about 5,000 trucks seek access to Apapa and Tin Can ports in Lagos every day, and that these trucks have continued to plunder the access roads and the two ports, originally meant to accommodate only 1,500

The Blue Economy online investigations revealed that the cost of transportation from Apapa has increased by about 400 per cent. For example, movement of consignments from Apapa to Trade fair complex was between N80, 000 – N120, 000, but now it is between N550, 000 and N600,

Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) estimated that the nation is losing N20 billion daily to the avoidable

The Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing, had recently flagged off construction works on Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway, having secured approval of N72.9 billion from the Federal Executive Council, but the contractors are yet to mobilise to

The National Assembly had, during the year considered eight maritime-related bills. Some have been passed while others are awaiting presidential

The bills include the Nigerian Ports Authority Act (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2016, National Inland Waterways Act, CAPN47 (repeal and re-enactment) bill 2016, National Transport Commission bill 2016, Nigeria Coast Guards bill 2018, Suppression of Piracy bill 2017 and the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1958 and 1982 bill

Others are, Maritime Security Operations Coordinating Board Act (amendment) bill 2018, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (amendment) bill, 2018, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act (amendment) bill 2018 and Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences bill

President Muhammadu Buhari has however declined assent to two Transport Bills, namely, the National Transport Commission Bill and Federal Road Authority Establishment

President Buhari reportedly declined assent to the National Transport Commission Bill 2018 and Federal Road Authority Establishment Bill 2018, citing duplication of functions of the supervising ministries as one of the

Overtime 

The uncoordinated activities coupled with poor road infrastructure, led to cargo congestion at the ports as unprecedented number of overtime cargoes littered the seaports, with huge loss of revenue and congestion

It was estimated that over 10,000 cargoes were stranded at the seaports. These cargoes have continued to occupy large space at the ports that should have accommodated new goods. The situation prompted the shipping lines to introduce surcharges on Nigerian bound

The situation took a dramatic twist when shipping giant, CMA CGM introduced a surcharge of about $400 on Lagos bound cargoes in October 2018. The shipping line based its action on what it called disruption of its activities due to congestion at Lagos ports.

But the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and NPA immediately cautioned the firm and threatened to sanction any other shipping firm that introduce such unauthorised

They blamed some of the shipping companies for failure to fully comply with the directive to acquire and operate holding bays, as they have either failed to utilise their holding bays at all or do not have adequate capacity to handle the volume of containers that they deal

Truckers strike paralysed ports 

It all started like a child’s play, until the truck drivers made good their threats and halted the lifting of containers from the ports around July. This situation contributed to the congestion at ports and called the government to

The feud between truck drivers and officials of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Ports Authority is causing serious congestion at the ports, with thousands of containers unable to exit the

The truck drivers strike was to protest alleged extortion by the officials handling the truck call up system at the ports. It took the intervention of the Managing Director, NPA and other top government representatives to halt the strike. Over 6000 containers were shut inside the ports.

Bribery, corruption, extortion 

Just as the clearing agents and freight forwarders have accused officers of the Nigerian customs of bribery and corruption, the truck owners have also alleged extortion from the officers that were stationed to manage the traffic on Apapa port access

Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) and the Container Truck Owners Association of Nigeria (COTOAN) said their boys are being subjected to wanton extortion by countless security agencies around the

They allegedly charge between N80, 000.00 – N120, 000.00 on each truck, depending on the particular operator’s power of

Stakeholders 

Spokesperson for Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Bolaji Akinola, said: “We did not fare better. You can see what is happening. The roads to ports are not good, and when the roads are bad, cargo evacuation becomes an issue. Despite the huge investment in the ports, these constraints around the port are not helping us to maximize the potentials of our ports. And that way the terminal operator is short-changed while government also losses revenue, because the ports belong to government, we are just running some terminals on behalf of

“For instance, I know of some terminal that did not handle up to 20 vessels in the whole of 2018. We have Guarantee Minimum Tonnage, which is the lowest you must pay. So, how do you expect such an operator to break even and then pay the minimum benchmark to government? It has been an extremely tough and challenging year for terminal operators, not just in Lagos but across the country. We are only hoping and praying that these issues will be addressed in

The Guardian Maritime, reported that National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said: “The year has been very bad. Poor policies and infrastructure have driven people and businesses out of the ports and Apapa area as a whole. It has not been convenient. A lot of businesses have closed shop. No access to the port. The components of trade facilitation which are predictability, consistency and transparency are not in

“When you look at our port system, the government has not done anything to improve the ports. The Ease of Doing Business has been so terrible. We are 184 from 190 countries. We are the last in Africa and in the West African Sub region. We are losing fortunes every day. People are closing businesses while cargoes are being diverted to neighbouring countries”, he

Amiwero said the ports access roads have been neglected, alleging that the Federal Government just did a jamboree, claiming they have kicked off construction, while no company is mobilized for the

In all, the year 2019, seems to envision great expectations that would surpass that of 2018, to move the Nigerian maritime sector from its present state to a higher and more respected level like other nations.