• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Shipping firms, terminals fail to meet dollar obligations to NPA, NIMASA over lack of FX

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Shipping companies and terminal operators that have dollar payments to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are currently failing to meet their financial obligations due to their inability to access foreign exchange during the lockdown, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has said.

According to the Council, international trade is now seriously hampered as shippers do not have access to foreign exchange for importation and export purposes.

Stating these in a statement released over the weekend, the Council called on the Central Bank of Nigerian (CBN) to direct banks to provide foreign exchange to shipping companies to enable them to fulfil their financial obligations to government agencies.

Meanwhile, the Council has also rolled out new operational guidelines to banks, terminal operators, shipping companies, truckers, and other service providers to ensure smooth operations at ports within the period of lockdown.

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According to NSC, banks need to support international trade, port operations and ensure unhindered port services by opening more branches within the port area to receive duty payments, confirm payments for bank drafts as well as online transfers and provide foreign exchange to shippers, shipping line agents, and terminals.

The Council further noted that terminals and shipping firms need to provide decent waiting areas for port users in order to improve on the level of compliance to social-distancing guidelines within their environment.

“Shipping firms and terminals should upgrade their online services to discourage human contact especially during the COVlD-19 period and provide functional helplines to enable agents to make necessary inquiries and obtain information to avoid physical presence. This was in addition to improving on the level of service delivery and reduction of delays,” said the statement signed by Hassan Bello-led management of the Council.

Worried that many shipping firms are not taking delivery of their cargo from the ports, the Council advised freight forwarders to patronise online platforms of the service providers for submission of documents, rotation number in order to minimise physical presence in terminals, banks, and shipping company premises.

“We appeal to all freight forwarder to be orderly at all the service points to facilitate quick delivery of cargoes. Unless it is absolutely necessary, freight forwarders should stay at home and meet the terminals and shipping companies only when they have a business that cannot be done online,” NSC stated.

On truckers, NSC noted that most truckers were not evacuating cargo from the port and returning containers to holding bays, adding that truckers were also not observing COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

While noting that costs charged by truckers are prohibitive, the Council insisted that truckers should be guided by the agreed Indicative Haulage Rates issued by Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

The council also appealed to the police to desist from harassing and arresting legitimate port workers during the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and other states.