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Shippers’ Council most reformist maritime agency in 2016—Business Hilights

As the year rolls away, a review of activities in the maritime sector within 2016 has shown that apart from the fact that most of the agencies in the sector were driving their performance only in the media, a survey by Business Hilights shows that Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) outperformed others but with less media hype after all.

Looking at 10 years ago when activities in the ports were at their lowest ebb, the ports could not compete with those of the neighbouring West Africa countries, let alone pride itself as hub in Africa.

Key disappointing factor in ports was congestions and its which forced importers and clearing agents to champion the diversion of cargoes to the ports of Duala, Cotonou, Lome, Tema and others in the sub-region.

Within the period under review, Nigerian ports were largely characterized by annoying long turn-around time of vessels and long cargo dwell time. The scenario fueled imposition of what was then known as port congestion surcharge on consignments coming into the country by multinational shipping firms under the aegis of the Europe-West Africa Trade Agreement [EWATA].

What actually stood NSC out from the crowd of maritime agencies can be said to be how in 2014 it stepped up its regulatory functions as an interim regulator of critical ports activities.

Shippers’ Council, it would be recalled was given the powers to act as a referee in the industry since the vacuum created was already making it difficult for the nation to enjoy the gains of ports reform programmes.

Key targets of the government’s reforms at the ports were among others to drive efficiency in the procedure and operations of agencies and service providers. Others are to reduce the cost of doing business within the ports.

Today, analysts are upbeat that NSC has raised its ante in the way and manner it regulates activities in the ports.

Today, clearing agents, importers and exporters enjoy the port information portal midwived by the Shippers’ Council.

The online platform has not only streamlined and made seamless, activities in the ports especially in information access and inter agency checks and conformity that now add to the growing ease of doing business at the ports.

Analysts now see that NSC has restructured  the system to provide a level playing ground for competing interests in the port sector, by being fair to all parties through procedural transparency, lack of arbitrary decision making, and balancing the needs of stakeholders.

Just like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Shippers’ Council remains the maritime agency that recorded the highest number of stakeholders meeting where key issues are clinically looked and solutions developed alongside port operators.

Further observations as far as the shipping industry is concerned were the improved delivery on marine and terminal handling services.

This development has lead to reduced turn-around time for vessels.

Another key reform of the Council according to stakeholders was the return of professionalism in port businesses ranging from the freight forwarding practice.

Today, incidences of touting are at the barest minimum and the feat has series of multiplier effects as sanitization of port environment and promotion of global linkages are now on ground, clearing process and procedures are now seamless as there has been observed drop in clearing charges.

As the sector gets set to hit the ground of 2017 running in few days time, analysts are upbeat that the Executive Secretary, Barr. Hassan Bello, may have in his mind, other thoughtful leadership reforms for the Nigerian port system in driving the 2017 budget of the Council.