Nigeria’s port reforms in 2006 have refined dock labour by increasing dockworkers’ wages by over 2,000 per cent, resulting in a decline in pilferage at the nation’s seaport terminals, terminal operators have said.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday at the maiden edition of Dockworkers Day organised by the Shipping Correspondent Association of Nigeria (SCAN), titled, ‘Dockworkers: The Unsung Heroes Of Nigerian Port Reforms,’ the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Vicky Haastrup, said before the port concession, dockworkers were poorly paid with no condition of service.
She said the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and terminal operators ensured industrial harmony.
“Today, the average take-home pay of a dockworker has increased by more than 2,000 per cent over what it was in 2006.
Their safety while performing their duties was not taken to heart; they were exploited, dehumanised, and underpaid. They were paid between N2,000 to N4,000 then,” she said.
Haastrup, also the executive vice chairman of ENL Consortium, applauded the federal government for initiating and implementing the 2006 port reform, saying that it changed the face of the marítime sector.
Samuel Babatunde, the registrar of the Port & Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria, who was the keynote speaker, said the port reform has reduced cargo pilferage by 40 per cent and increased efficiency by 85 per cent.
“The ports have benefited from the private sector’s ability to fix things right. Likewise, dockworkers have strategically assisted in actualising the desire for port reforms through reduced thefts in our seaports. Theft has decreased drastically from 55 to 15 per cent since the port reform 2006.
“Also, the degree of port efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness has improved tremendously from 25 to 85 per cent. The degree of cargo handling equipment in all the seaports has equally taken a new tune under the port reforms from less than 25 per cent to as much as 75 per cent.
He said the dwell time of cargo at the port has shifted from more than three weeks to less than one week under the port reforms, and the Port Workers Accident (PWA) rate also reduced drastically from 55 per cent before reforms to less than 13 per cent.
The dockworker’s welfare Packages in remuneration, allowances and other privileges have increased and improved from lower to higher, making dock labour a reasonable career.
Also speaking, Adewale Adeyanju, president-general of MWUN, said dockworkers have been committed to sustaining port development and operations.
He lamented the non-renewal of expired lease agreements of some terminal operators in the pot, saying the objective of the reform was to increase the port’s efficiency and eliminate overlap between NPA as a technical regulator and other agencies.
“The ports were delineated in 2006 to 25 terminals with lease agreements between 10 and 25 years. Until now, the agreements have not been renewed because of inter-agency rivalries, and the culprits are the unsung heroes: the Dockworkers. It is said that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers,” he added.
Emmanuel Jime, executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC),
also highlighted the critical roles dockworkers play in the growth of the nation’s economy.
According to him, “Dockworkers are truly unsung heroes. How will any port function without them? This is so deserving for those who make the port run. We are in solidarity and offer partnership and friendship to move our country to the next level.”