By Francis Ugwoke
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr Hassan Bello Wednesday met with terminal operators as part of the efforts to ensure that they cooperate in keeping their terminals open for ports operation.
Bello visited the office of the Chairman, Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), and Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, Princess Vicky Haastrop in Apapa where they discussed the need to keep the terminals open to enable clearing process to take place.
Bello also visited the Ports & Terminal Multiservices Ltd where he met with the Managing Director, Mr Ascanio Russo and other management team.
Similarly, Bello also reached out to shipping companies to ensure that they cooperate in keeping with the federal government’s directive to open for business .
Bello had earlier appealed to some stakeholders, including customs agents by providing buses to convey them to the ports to enable them process clearance of their goods.
It was gathered that the NSC boss will today meet with the President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Iju Tony Nwabunike to discuss other related issues on ensuring smooth operations at the ports during this period of COVID-19 without hitches.
The Council Tuesday offered to provide bus services for customs agents who will be clearing their goods at the ports during this period of restrictions in Lagos as announced by the federal government to check the spread of coronavirus.
The federal government has listed ports services as among the essential services which are exempted from the restriction announced by President Muhammadu Buhari with effect from Tuesday.
In a statement Tuesday, the Deputy Director, Public Relations, NSC, Mrs. Rekiya Zubairo, said the bus services to be provided by the ports economic regulator will be available at four different locations in Lagos for agents who will be conveyed to the ports to carry out their operations.
The five locations were identified as Festac (by Apple junction); Okokomaiko (at Alakija under bridge); Surulere (by National Stadium); Oshodi (at Charity bus stop) and Ikeja(at Ikeja along bus stop).
The buses according to the statement will leave the locations at 8am with effect from 1st April, 2020.
The ports economic regulator said the provision of the buses was mainly to ease movement of accredited freight forwarders who have business to conduct at the ports and other port users.
The Council also donated protective gears for port users worth N5m to be distributed to relevant field and operational staff.
In addition, the Council also donated the sum of N5,000,000.00 to be used collectively in the fight against Covid-19 in Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the statement, the Council assured importers and customs agents that it was currently discussing with service providers on the issue of getting waiver on demurrage for them.
Part of the statement reads: “This present situation has indeed caused unimaginable disruption of the logistics supply chain. Users and providers of services are seemingly unable to carry out their obligations for reasons beyond their control.
“Nigeria Shippers’ Council, as Port Economic Regulator and an arbiter, is conscious of the fact that obligations, responsibilities, duties and rights may have been frustrated. Therefore, Nigerian Shippers’ Council is discussing with all parties so that a balanced solution can be achieved especially the issue of demurrage and incentives to facilitate the clearance of goods from the ports”.
According to the Council, all government agencies in the ports are exempted from the restriction imposed in Lagos, and will therefore maintain skeletal services.
The statement from the Council reads:
“In that regard and to ensure uninterrupted supply of crucial commodities, the following services shall remain open during this period, albeit with minimal operations to enable the ports function, while access will be restricted and closely monitored. The agencies/organizations/services exempted are:
1. Nigeria Customs Service;
2. Nigerian Ports Authority;
3. Nigerian Shippers’ Council;
4. Nigerian Railway Corporation; (Freight services)
5. National Inland Waterways Authority;
6. Port Health Services;
7. Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency;
8. National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control;
9. Standards Organisation of Nigeria;
10. National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency;
11. All Seaport Terminal Operators;
12. Shipping Lines/Agencies;
13. Dock Workers;
15. Freight Forwarding Services;
16. Cargo De-consolidators;
17. Barge Operators;
18. Marine and Port Police;
19. Cargo Truck Drivers;
20. Banks; and
21. Any other service user or provider at the ports.
Noting that it has received complaints that banks were not offering services with respect to port operations, the Council said it has drawn the attention of the financial institutions to the Notice by the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria to the fact that they are to operate skeletal services.
According to the Council, “Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been inundated with complaints that banks are not offering services with respect to port operations. This, without doubt, hampers cargo clearance from the ports. The attention of the banks is, therefore, drawn to the Notice by the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, which allows operations in the financial system. We note that port operations as indicated by the President are essential and critical services”.
The statement called for synergy between port users and government agencies to support the Federal Government in containing the scourge of the deadly virus while making it possible to sustain port operations during this period.