Despite all measures put in place to address impediment to its growth, the effect of Coronavirus crisis, congestion and gridlock slowed maritime industry’s growth in the first three months of the year, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
The economic disruptions brought about by coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and the inability to address the port road gridlock are still affected the maritime industry as trade facilitation lagged substantially below average.
Most trading countries in Asia and Europe have been finding it difficult to import and export their cargoes in and out of Nigeria because of lockdown.
Also, the congestion at the port slowed businesses in the first three months of the year due to inefficient service delivery and uncoordinated activities of port officials and security operatives within and outside the port.
For instance, the industry was plagued by smuggling, making manufacturers the victims of increased smuggling of counterfeit goods, illegal importation of unregistered products, underinvoicing and evasion of duty. In addition, conflict of interests in the areas of maritime labour issues, cargo inspection and delivery, protracted gridlock, smuggling, pilferage, cargo diversion, piracy among others posed problem to trade facilitation.
In the last three months, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) began the implementation of fiscal policy on duty and levy reduction for some vehicles, which was reduced from 35 per cent to five per cent. However, automobile importers said that the reduction had no effect on the prices of vehicles because of weak foreign exchange.
It also proposed ban on vehicles above seven years, while the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise proposed a revenue target N1.56 trillion for the service in 2021 during a budget defence session in Abuja
The Comptroller General, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), however, argued that the proposed target of N1.4trillion earlier set by the Federal Government was based on some parameters and not on actual computation.
Ali also ordered all customs commands in the South West to invade warehouses and market to confiscate foreign parboiled rice and contraband smuggled into the country. To this end, its strice force seized 1,930 bags of 50 kilogrammes of rice in Lagos and Ogun states.
Early in the year, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) declared its intention to work in partnership with the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) in the fight against piracy and other crimes in the country’s maritime domain. Also, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) and other stakeholders in the maritime labour industry negotiated the increment of dockworkers’ wages and entitlements.
The Director General, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, said that the agency had intensified the training and certification of 788 seafarers to enhance the country’s position in an increasingly competitive maritime world. NPA
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) introduced electronic call up app and approved 17 truck parks in Lagos to end traffic gridlock at the port access road. However, the app has not achieved its purpose because of sabotage and poor management by the operators.
Also, the authority clamped down on non-sea worthy barges while three illegal jetties have been sealed. Within the period, the authority also transferred its dockyard to NIMASA to enable its N50 billion floating dock function.
Also, the Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Ibrahim Nasiru, said that a committee had been set up to spearhead the clearing of the waterways of lay-by barges and tugboats along Ibeji/Ilashe axis and as far as the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal and Mile 2 bridge, as well as the removal of wrongly anchored barges that are obstructing visibility along the Kirikiri channel.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) moved to stop indiscriminate boarding of vessels calling at the nation’s ports by security agencies early in the year. Its Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello, explained that only officially designated agencies should be allowed to board vessels at the ports jointly as against the practice in the past.
Before now, some agencies chose to board vessels at their own time and schedule in what was described as indiscriminate and time consuming for the ships.
Bello noted that the number of the agencies had been reduced to achieve the same purpose of trade facilitation, adding that only specified agencies now board the vessels.
Also, the Executive Secretary said that all regulated service providers must register with them to void sanction such as delisting, sealing of office. He added that the registration was in line with the part 2, section 41 of NSC Port Economic Regulation of 2015.
Following increasing reports of abuses of process in the operation of barges and private jetties, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) licensed eight companies to commence trans-shipment of about 1,000 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs)of container by waters to Onitsha river port.
The Managing Director of the authority, Dr George Moghalu, said that the trans-shipment would reduce the volume of cargoes on the roads, adding that it was cheaper to move cargoes by water than road.
The authority also said that the ongoing rehabilitation of Burutu Port would serve to decongest Lagos Port and serve as transit port for Lokoja, Baro and Onitsha river ports.
There is need by government to provide adequate infrastructure to grow port economy in order to make it competitive