There are indications that the long list of difficulties facing Nigeria’s shipping industry may note abate in the new year, a situation which operators say would sustain diversion of cargoes to neighbouring countries’ ports.
Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report yesterday on the prospects of industry recovery in 2022, some of the operators said some of the challenges are entrenched and they do not see any major moves to address them by the government and its maritime agencies.
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Some of the difficulties, according to them include corruption amongst government agencies in the sector, the high revenue target driven by the Nigerian Customs Services, policy conflicts and inconsistencies across different regulatory agencies, high operating cost in cargo clearing and delivery chain, high shipping charges by the terminal operators as well as dollarization of payments in the industry at the backdrop of exchange rate instability.
Giving insight into some of these challenges, the National Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, said that in 2022 importers will continue to divert their cargoes to ports of neighbouring countries as long as the policies regulating international trade in Nigeria remains unfavourable to the importers.
Farinto also made reference the to the opinion of the Organized Private Sector recently saying that it has become more difficult to clear cargoes from Nigerian ports due the high level of corruption that has bedevilled the port system.
He also warned that government should stop giving revenue target to the Nigeria Customs Service adding that a level playing field will lead to high performance of government agencies that engages with the port system.
He explained that the inconsistent policies of government has also made it impossible for the industry to operate optimally.
He stated: “ In order for the industry to make some progress this year, the government needs to create a conducive environment for businesses in the sector to thrive because from what we are seeing terminal operators are likely going to increases their charges. Government should stop the dollarization of concessionaires’ payment to its coffers as this has also put terminal operators under pressure.
“If the government is serious about the economy of this country, it must stop terminal operators from arbitrary charges because the level of increment is not commensurate to the level of services they render.”
Farinto suggested that a stakeholders’ meeting should be called where the government will be told what to do and how to do what are needed to improve the sector.
Also speaking, a former Director of Shipping Development at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr. Abass Olayemi, said that developing a multi-modal transport system will further enhance cargo delivery and grow the logistics part of the maritime transport.
He was speaking at the backdrop of complaints that the logistics aspects of the cargo delivery system have been strangulated by poor transport infrastructure, a situation which has contributed to the high cost of shipping in Nigeria.
Abass was also piqued at the revenue target the government gives to the Nigeria Customs Service adding, “these targets will always breed corruption.”
Speaking in similar vein, the Vice Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Ship Brokers in Nigeria, Barrister Chris Ebare said that the maritime industry needs to be run by professionals adding that having the wrong people at the helm of affairs in the agencies of government harms the industry.
Ebare also said that not putting the right people in the right office was part of the reason the country lost the recent International Maritime Organization election into the Council seat of the United Nation’s agency.