According to them, the development is not only depriving the ports of patronage but is also leading to non-recovery of investment cost in the industry.
They added that it is resulting in cargo congestion and makes users of port services to cut corners.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a one-day seminar on pricing of port services in Nigeria with the theme, “Achieving Fair and Equitable Port Pricing System in Nigeria,” the stakeholders said prices of services obtainable in a port can make or mar the port.
The seminar was organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
According to the communiqué issued at the end of the seminar, fair and equitable pricing system ensures port efficiency/transparency; encourages private sector investments; protects the rights of both the consumers of services and investors.
The participants, therefore recommended that a fair and equitable price of port services in Nigerian ports must be worked out to discourage cutting of corners and engaging in acts that only help foreigners to dominate the nation’s shipping sector.
“The NSC should ensure that the interests of all stakeholders in the sector are protected. The council as commercial regulator should carry every stakeholder along in trying to arrive at equitable pricing system. It should be fair to all and should not strive to work out port prices alone but should consult widely and allow all stakeholders ample opportunity to make inputs.
The high investment and operational cost by terminal operators should be taken into consideration in determining tariffs at the port terminals. No operator should fix rates/fees on its own. Government should come out, without delay, the enabling legislation to provide legal backing for the new commercial regulator (NSC) in order to save it from distractions arising from possible litigations,” they added.
They noted that that government should work towards stable exchange rate of the naira while foreign exchange transactions should be handled by banks alone.
“This is necessary as shipping companies and terminal operators use the black market rates to increase their charges since they also source for foreign exchange from the black market. Unstable exchange rate also makes projections and international trade difficult,” they said.
The participants argued that the difference between demurrage paid to shipping companies and storage fees paid to terminal operators should be clarified, adding that if possible, the two should be harmonised.
“The many charges in the ports should equally be harmonised. There should be continuous dialogue between the NSC and the stakeholders to avoid friction in the course of the regulation. The participants commended MARAN for the initiative of bringing the providers and consumers of port services together and facilitating a robust discussion aimed at working out fair and equitable port prices for the growth of the port industry”, the communiqué added.
– John Iwori, This Day