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NAGAFF Founder Backs Terminal Operators On Increased Port Charges

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  • As Group Issues STOAN 7-Days Ultimatum To Reverse Charges

Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF);  Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has called on the Federal Government to review the concession agreement it signed with port concessionaires in 2006, saying that it does not agree with present realities.

Aniebonam who spoke with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week faulted the government for taxing the terminal operators in dollars, a situation which according to him justifies concessionaires to increase their port charges.

However, a port activist group, the Save Nigeria Importers Exporters and Freight Forwarders Coalition (SNIEFFC) under its Coordinator,  ‎Chief   Osita Chukwu Patrick yesterday gave a seven days ultimatum to the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) to reverse the recent increase ‎in port charges or face major consequences.

But speaking with our correspondent, Dr. Aniebonam argued that there was no way terminal operators would sustain their business and recoup investments if they continue to charge port users at their old port charges. He said that government should find a way of protecting existing investors by reviewing its 2006 concession agreement‎ if it wants to attract more investors.

“Let us be honest to ourselves, why must the government of this country be charging concessionaires in hard currency, why are they paying the government in dollars”.

“When the port was concessioned in 2006, the dollars was N130 to a dollar, but today it is N350 to a dollar, so how can they pay? Invariably they cannot sustain their business”.

“There are ways that to handle issues like these, government should review their contract in the interest of the nation, otherwise if we are not careful they will continue to fold up and we need to protect investors coming into Nigeria‎””If the terminal operators have decided to increase their charges, definitely they have a good reason‎, but the matter is in court, we need to protect our investors” he said.

The NAGAFF Founder pointed out that the money that terminal operators pay to government has tripled and this money can only be realised from cargo throughput which has dropped drastically.

He warned that government needs to be realistic because the port cost at the end of the day is passed to the final consumer of the cargoes.

But Chief Osita expressed a different view, even as he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to cancel the concession agreement for alleged protracted corruption.

He said “Save Nigeria is giving seven days ultimatum to the shipping companies and terminal operators or else they will see the other side of us, since other associations have refused to talk”.

“They (STOAN) are telling us that they had called a town hall meeting of stakeholders before increasing the charges, whom did they invite? Let them tell us”.

He argued that it is wrong for shipping companies and terminal operators to increase charges without recourse to the Nigerian Shippers Council as economic regulator.‎ He hinted our correspondent that letters has already been sent to the Minister of Transport and the Chief Security Adviser’s offices on the increased charges.

Osita said his group will be joined in the fresh suit that was filed last week by STOAN and shipping companies against the regulation of the Shippers Council. “If the concessionaires feel that‎ government is cheating them, they should have notified the stakeholders or even go on strike, but instead, they are suing the government that gave them concession, Buhari can rise up tomorrow and seal these terminals, it doesn’t cost Government anything”.

Findings by our correspondent showed that Terminal Handling Charges (THC) which hitherto was N67.000 has increased to N110,000, while Terminal Delivery Charges which was formerly N3000 has been increased to N10,500.00. Customs examination charges has risen from N6,895.00 to a whooping N38,750.00. Storage charges rose from N8, 800 to N13,000 for the first five days.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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