By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When Senator Gbemisola Saraki, minister of State, Transportation, described the Nigerian Ports as one of the most expensive in doing business in the West African Sub region last January, many had expected Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman , Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to bring out the facts to convince the shipping Companies, particular, that Nigerian charges are moderate compared to other countries.
The minister spoke his mind when she hosted Tony Nwabunike, and other officials of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, in her office at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The ministerial remarks may have given ammunition to officials of the shipping Companies to consider Nigerian ports as really expensive compared to other ports in the sub-region. The Maersk Line and other International shipping Companies which sail to Nigerian ports with cargoes may have seen it as a justification to charge arbitrarily the shippers who patronise their services to carry their cargo to carry their cargoes to Nigerian ports.
The cost of shipping the cargo to Onne and, Rivers port in Rivers state, Delta port, Warri or Calabar port, Cross river state in south east Nigeria, according to Industry stakeholders are even higher compared to the Lagos port. The Campaign of high cost of doing business at Nigerian ports which may have scared many shipping Companies from sailing to Nigerian ports with their cargoes may have forced Adams Jatto, an Engineer and General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, at the instance f the Management to come out with the facts and figures to prove that Nigerian ports are not the most expensive in the West African sub-region.
Note that when the Marketing Campaign of Calumny by Competitors in the region describing Nigerian ports as the most expensive in order to attract more vessels to their port became pronounced in 1919, as the country started losing business to Benin Republic , Togo and other ports in the region, including Tema port in Ghana, the Hajia Usman led agency had no option that to engage the services of Messrs Crown Agents, a United Kingdom, UK, based Company to make assessment of the port charges in the West Cost and make their recommendation on what needed to be done to improve ship traffic in the country.
NPA of ficials may have expected the UK based service Company to come out with a damning report that Nigerian ports are the most expensive in West Africa as being alleged in several quarters. They were surprised with their report which shows that ‘’Nigerian ports Tariffs are not the highest along the West African Coast as alleged by critics. The report was said to have revealed that ‘’it is cheaper to berth general cargo vessels in Nigerian ports than it is in Ghana or Togo, two major maritime nations region.
Given an insider information, Adams, the NPA, Spokesperson, disclosed that ‘’while it costs $ 94,567.63 with the inclusion of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, Value Added Tax, VAT of 7.5% to berth a general cargo, vessel in a Nigerian port with a Gross Registered Tonnage, GRT, of 26,770, LOA at 196 metres and cargo of 14,100 Metric Tonnes, MT, the ports of Tema, Ghana and Lome Togo, charge $217,879.07 and $120,357.58 for the same type of cargoes respectively. It is instructive to note that these charges for the same type of cargoes are not inclusive of VAT, an indication that if it is added to the it the cost of berthing a vessel in these two West Cost countries would be much higher.
Investigation by The Value News shows that that the Nigerian ministry of Transportation agency also charges $108,806.90 including VAT on a cargo vessel with 39,906 GRT, LOA, OF 261 m, carrying 120 X20 and 130 X40 Containers and $128,406.94 respectively as against $117,906.07 and $128,406.94 in Ghana and Togo respectively.
Adams who could not his feelings noted that Nigerian port charges because of several other charges that are being and collected by the Terminal operators . According to him, ‘’apart from the Towage dues , which had been reviews in 2015, to cover the costs of providing services at the port, the country port Tariff had emained the same since 1993. He averred that the Towage charges had remained the same despite the eroneous inclusion of Stevedoring charges to it. It is interesting to note that the charges are collected by the Terminal Operators as the port components.
The NPA Spokesperson disclosed that costs like freight rates and terminal handling charges are components which are not within the control of the agency as’’ it has no powers to regulate economic activities at the ports.
Determined to win back its lost glory as the port of first choice for port users, the agency had made it clear to those that cares to listen of its commitment to the ease of doing business policy at the ports as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari. This should gladden the heart of Industry stakeholders and port users who had waited anxiously over the last two months to get the Authority response to the ministerial speech that Nigeria is losing out business to Ghana, Togo and other ports in the West African sub-region because of high cost of doing of shipping charges.