By Godwin Obi, Lagos
EXECUTIVE Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello has renewed the initiative to ensure efficiency on the parts of both the shipping lines and the port users for the purpose of guaranteeing higher compliance of the Presidential Directive on Ease of Doing Business, and making the Nigerian ports more attractive to shippers.
In that vein, the NSC CEO, Bello led other management staff on a working visit to Grimaldi, Maersk and CMA/CGM terminals on Monday in Lagos, stressing the need for the promotion of greater transparency and efficiency in the port business environment and for timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies.
Hassan Bello specifically stressed the need for all the shipping companies to make information available to their customers on their website so as to reduce human elements and its attendant tilt on extortion at the ports.
He highlighted government’s determination to create a more conducive atmosphere so as to enable the private investors to continue to invest in the country; adding that the council is also interested in seeing that shippers returned containers timely, to eliminate unnecessary payment of avoidable charges.
“The freight forwarders could return containers before three to four days free period, based on the period given for returning of cargo without paying any money.
“The issue of gridlock is what everybody is suffering but issue of demurrage is building up in spite of the situation.
“Freight forwarders are requesting for longer period of time instead of the 21-day free period before demurrage starts counting.
“We hope you will put the policy of more than 21 days before counting of demurrage, into consideration” Bello said, adding that the council was also promoting Truck Transit Park TTP to enable “the NSC take the trucks off the highways and decongest port access roads”.
Bello observed that the NSC was making the TTP project a reality with the support of other government agencies and, urged the shipping lines to key into the government vision to boost trade facilitation.
He insisted on provision of more days, before demurrage charges begin to count, saying this is due to the economic situation in the country.
Responding, the Managing Director of Grimaldi, Ascanio Russo, said the company operates the shipping line, Grimaldi Group Agency and Grimaldi Ports.
He assured that his company would always ensure smooth cargo operations in Nigeria, adding that Grimaldi Group had companies in Europe and other countries.
Russo stressed that his company does not waste time in providing Bill of Lading to Customs which he said had multiplier effects on their business.
“Customs get all information online and they also do their transaction online. We also refund their container deposits immediately we receive online information on return of the cargo.
“Grimaldi refunds the container deposit within three days before the four days free period, without allowing the freight forwarder to come to the ports.
“About 80 per cent of customers comply with the 21-day free period before demurrage charges start counting.
“We support our client by transferring containers through barges to Mile 2 for customs to pick them up and save them from gridlock on ports access roads,” Russo said, and pleaded with the NSC to support the terminal operators by removing touts off the terminal entrance, highlighting that many touts still roam around the entrance of the ports.
Russo also urged government to make the truck park at Tin Can Island Port more accessible for truck owners, to reduce the gridlock on ports access road.
Speaking in the same vein, the Director, Customer Services, Maersk Line, Mr. Rasak Ngula, said his company made manifests available to three government agencies and captains onboard vessels.
“We send different platforms of electronic manifests and hard copies of the manifests to Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Customs Service and Captains onboard vessels
“Over 5,000 operators have shifted to our service due to transparency in our operations.
“About 96 per cent of our shipping transactions are being done online, while customers receive prompt information online as well as on mobile phones,” Ngula said