COVID-19: NSC tells OPS to decongest ports using existing incentive windows
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has advised members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) to take advantage of the opportunities created by the various incentives which the Council has brokered with service providers at the port, to take delivery of their consignments during the period of lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Council, which expressed worry over the growing number of overtime containers at the seaports, raised the alarm over looming congestion in the port where majority of the terminals are recording 95 percent yard occupancy rate due to failure of cargo owners to take delivery of their consignments.
Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC, made this call in Lagos on Tuesday during a meeting with members of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS).
Bello, who emphasised on the need to diversify the economy through export and automated port system, listed some of the incentives to include reducing the cost of doing business at ports by working with truckers to reduce the transportation cost by 30 percent during the period of lockdown.
According to him, the Council has also worked with shipping companies to suspend the collection of demurrage charges on cargoes discharged at port terminals between March 30 and May 5, 2020 to reduce the financial burden on businesses.
“We have also brokered a meeting between the terminal operators and Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) as well as barge operators. We are presently developing a standard operating produce (SOP) that would ensure that goods are evacuated using multi-modal system of land, sea and railway. We have also worked with the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to ensure free interstate movement of cargoes during the lockdown,” he noted.
He also assured the OPS members that the Council was working to get other government agencies to reduce their charges in order to bring the economy back post-COVID-19 period.
Bello noted that the Council has also eliminated movement barriers for port workers and freight forwarders by deploying about 10 buses in different locations to lift workers, adding that some banks were able to return to operations in Apapa to deal with cargo clearing and payment of duties.
Responding, Muda Yusuf, director general of LCCI, who commended the Council for the incentives, said that it was a big relief for the members.
According to him, Nigeria cannot look up to the oil sector for foreign exchange or revenue within the rest of this year judging by the slump in oil prices in the international market due to decline in demand.
He, however, stated that the country would likely rely on non-oil sector to salvage the economy post COVID-19, adding that the challenges of the private sector people is having to deal with the bottlenecks in the port processes and procedures.
“While OPS members needs to come together to support government initiatives in decongesting the port, we appeal to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come up with mechanism that would ensure liquidity of foreign exchange supply in the market post-COVID-19 because we are already foreseeing a looming scarcity in supply when businesses eventually reopen,” Yusuf added.