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Trade facilitation excites importers, clearing agents

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As the Yuletide approaches, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Apapa command, has embarked on programmes to facilitate trade at the country’s biggest port, and the importers and clearing agents are happy for it, The Nation has learnt.

Its Area Controller, Mr Charles Edike, it was gathered, had adopted the trade facilitation programme of the Federal Government by fast-tracking cargo clearance procedures and implementing  Customs policies on quick cargo clearance to the fullest to generate more revenue and boost the  economy.

The effective manner the Comptroller-General of Customs Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi has directed his officers to implement his six-point agenda, it was learnt, was responsible for the success the service had recorded in Apapa and other notable commands in terms of the modernisation and transformation of Customs’ operations, a development, which importers and other operators said, had contributed to the quick clearance of cargoes from the Apapa port.

The Area Controller, Apapa command, stakeholders said, had no option than to embark on trade facilitation because he had received the needed support of his Comptroller-General to organise and manage the highest revenue yielding command in the country, cum the West and Central Africa sub-region.

His zeal and patriotism for the development of  the economy, findings revealed, was responsible for why he was moved to Apapa command to carry out the onerous task which, stakeholders said, he had  done diligently.

The President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said Edike does not joke with trade facilitation of the Federal Government.

“No paper stays on Edike’s table for more than 15 minutes before he releases them for quick cargo clearance.This is also because he has made the principle his watch word since his assumption of office as the Controller in Apapa Area Command and in all the commands he has been posted.

“He believes that when any document experiences delay, the implications can be more. Thus, as far as he is concerned, prompt treatment of documents is a must in his command. According to him, the documents represent money and the government needs the money to develop the country and provide jobs for the youths,“ he said.

Shittu also described Edike as a humble and listening Senior Customs officer who attend to every issue brought to his attention to attract business to the port.

“With the support of Alhaji Dikko, Edike was been able to reactivate the erstwhile dormant Container Terminal in Ijora, through constant and consistent stemming of containers to the terminal, a development that has not only kept the inland terminal alive up  till today, but has also assisted in giving a lease of livelihood to importers and those of us in the cargo clearance business.

Also, a senior officer of the command, who does not want his name in print, said the Area Controller had inculcated his trade facilitation message in his officers and tutored them on why they must delay documents to avoid sanctions.

“Edike has tutored us that when you delay import documents, you increase the cost of clearing such goods, because you make the importers to accumulate demurrage and you delay the purpose for which such goods would have been put to used for the proper development of  the economy.

“It is through his rare determination to block revenue loopholes and ability to combat corruption following the instruction given by the CGC that has made it possible for our command to collect an unprecedented N30,499,921,212  in September and N31,567,536,965 in October, this year. The figure is far more than the amount the command generated in the same period last year,” the officer said.

Also, the Chairman of the Lillypond Container Terminal chapter of ANLCA, Prince Chuks Njemanze, said he was impressed with the performance of Edike on  trade facilitation and stemming of containers to Lillypond terminal.

As part of efforts to solve the problem of server and network failure frequently encountered by importers and clearing agents at the ports, the Customs, he said, had inaugurated a newly built 160-meter communication tower for trade facilitation and launched a world-class Information Communication Training (ICT) centre at the Apapa command to boost the efficiency of its officers and men.

Addressing reporters on behalf of other stakeholders in Lagos, the Chairman, Apapa Chapter of ANLCA, Mr Olumide Fakanlu,  said they were happy with the way the Area Controller was handling the Fast-Track Scheme (FTS) introduced by Customs to boost cargo clearance procedure at the ports.

If not for the way the scheme was being handled, Fakanlu said, “the situation at Apapa port would have worsened because the terminal operator cannot handle more than 200 containers per day. “

Fakanlu also berated the unnecessary additional storage charges the importers and their clearing pay terminal operators.—The Nation

 

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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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