By Stephen Ubanna
With barely one year after the Bashir Jamoh led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, registered the Stevedoring Companies with operational areas allotted to them, in line with the Stevedoring Regulations , 2014, and urged the firms to commence operations, the maritime regulatory agency appeared to have bowed to pressure to reduce the controversial Stevedoring charges and Levies.
Recall that the International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in Nigeria had dragged the agency to Court over the high Stevedoring Charges. In spite of the IOCs claim that the NIMASA Stevedoring Charges are on the high side, the National Association of Sevedoring Companies had alleged that the IOCs have not been operating within the Laws of the country in respect of Stevedoring services, stressing that they have continued ‘’to flout the nation’s Labour Laws.
Given that the agency was not ready to be dragged into the controversy, it had remained neutral. The fallout was that in July 2020, it had given a matching order to the IOCs and other employers off dock labour operating in Nigeria a 30 days ultimatum ‘’to remit 0.5 percent Stevedoring Charges or face sanctions.
Signs that the Stevedoring Companies got assurance from the agency of a quick resolution of the issues challenging their operations began in 2015, particular, the controversial Stevedoring charges and dues, believe to be affecting their operations. The Value News had sighted a summary of the NIMASA approved fright rates and dues document imposed.
Jamoh had said that the decision to review the Stevedoring charges and dues as contained in the second Schedule 2014, Stevedoring Regulations was ostensibly taken to cushion the adverse effects of the Asian country of China emerged corona virus, popular, COVID 19, on the registered Stevedoring Companies Offshore cargo Handling Operations. He may have gladdened the heart of officials of the Stevedoring Companies when he said the renewal of the Stevedoring charges and dues which had been reviewed downwards is ‘’for a period of six months’’.
He had said that ‘’the idea is to make unpleasant COVID 19 moment as friendly as possible to both businesses and the economy, in general’’, noting that the agency was not unaware of the adverse effect of the Pandemic on business globally , as it had distorted plans and forced the prices of both locally manufactured goods and those imported in the Asian countries of China, India and other parts of the world including the North American country of the United States, US and the United Kingdom to go up and also sky rocked costs in other sectors of the economy, particular, the nation’s Petroleum sector, where prices of refined Petroleum products have continued to fluctuate over the last six years.
He had told those that cares to listen that the reviewed Stevedoring rates apply to dry bulk cargo, onshore Stevedoring and offshore royalty to force down the price of refined Petroleum products across the country. There is no gain saying the fact that NIMASA has the regulatory powers under the agency Stevedoring Regulations 2014 powers ‘’to review Stevedoring Companies fees, levies and charges, stipulated in the regulations and issue directives accordingly’’.
Prior to the downward review of the Stevedoring charges and dues, General cargoes, charges and dues, of the registered Stevedoring Companies operating Nigeria the companies, were made to to pay for imports $6 per metric ton, Export, $4 per metric ton while imports and exports for TWA/Coastal cargoes attracted $3 per metric ton.
For Dry Bulk cargo, the import and export charges and dues was fixed at $4 and $2.50 per metric ton awhilethe TWA/Coastal cargoes was fixed at $2.50 per metric ton. The Stevedoring Companies also had to pay for Liquid Bulk cargoes $4 per metric ton for imports and $2.50 per metric ton. The TWA/Coastal Liquid bulk cargo charges was put at $2 per metric ton.
The major worry of the Stevedoring Companies had been the exorbitant charges and dues paid on Containers laden with cargoes to the maritime regulatory agency. Take for instance, a ‘’20’’ Container laden with imported cargo attracts charges and dues of $90 per metric ton, export, foreign, $70 per metric ton . It is instructive to note that the TWA/Coastal ‘’20’’ Container laden with cargoes attract $70 and $25 per metric ton. The worst hit are the Stevedoring Companies, which handle ‘’40’’ Container laden with cargoes as they have a bill of $130 to settle for imports and $100 for export per metric ton. This is in addition to payment of $100 per metric ton for TWA/Coastal ‘’40’’ Containers laden with cargoes. The may have been given a soft landing on both a ‘’20’’ and ‘’40’’ empty Containers which attracts $25 and $40 respectively per metric ton.
The stevedoring charges and dues for imported vehicles, going by what is contained in approved NIMASA document, was a bit on the low side, perhaps to encourage Nigerian vehicles to patronize Lagos port of Apapa and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, instead of Patronising the Autonomous port of Benin and Bollore port to take delivery of their vehicles.
Many believe that the agency had taken advantage of the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land border by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General on January 1, 2017, to insist that the Stevedoring Companies must pay the relevant charges and dues. The imported vehicles of
up to 15 CBM and 16.20 CBM, had attracted $14.30 per unit and $25.80 per unit respectively. The agency had fixed $55 per unit on vehicles of 25.20 CBM, described as self-propelled and Trailer/Wagon Mechanical, were made to pay $55 and $110 per unit.
For the export vehicles of up to 25 CBM, the exporter was exported to pay $14.30 per unit, 16.12 CBM, $13.80,per unit, Trailer/Wagon Mechanical, $44.80 per unit. This is in addition to export of TWA/ Coastal vehicles, which also attracts for vehicles of up to 15 CBM, 16.12 CBM and 25.20 CBM, including Marfi, of $14.30, $14.80,$17.80 and $44.80 per unit.
Osagie Edward, an Assistant Director, overseeing the agency Public Relations Department, had said in a Statement issued that they have ‘’Strategic plan for the registered Stevedoring Companies and other employers of Off dock Labour which they have continued ‘’to implement’’.