15 February 2018, Sweetcrude, Lagos —IN a bid to free the two approaches to Lagos ports of container-laden trucks may have recorded first casualties as the Nigerian Ports Authority last week descended on two shipping companies.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it has applied sanctions on two shipping companies; Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Hull Blyth Shipping Company for not having holding bays to receive their empty containers.
The implication of the sanction is that both companies would not be allowed to operate until they have put holding bays in place. Also, vessels belonging to them would not be allowed to berth at the port.
It could also lead to loss of revenue for the ports authority.
Confirming the sanctions on both shipping companies at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos recently, Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Unman noted that henceforth, all shipping companies must begin to make use of their holding bays in order to decongest access roads to the port.
The NPA MD also said the racketeering between APM Terminals and Maersk Line would be discontinued and that their operations would be shut down in the next seven days. She noted that Maersk Line does not have a holding bay and that together with APM Terminal, they deliberately create the congestion in Apapa.
“Two shipping companies were sanctioned for not having holding bays at all. We would look at the withdrawal of service from shipping companies, anyone that fails to comply with the utilisation of holding bays, services would be withdrawn from them and they won’t have access into the Nigerian waterways”, she warned.
Apparently angered about activities of APMT and Maersk Line, Hadiza warned that the two companies would not be allowed to hold Nigerians to ransom any longer.
Speaking to representatives of the two firms, she said: “It is completely unacceptable, whatever racket you think you are running, it has to come to an end, you don’t have holding bays but you claim to have it, nobody can play with our minds, we are adults and we all have responsibilities”.
“All shipping companies must sign up where their holding bays are and must be published; nobody should come and destroy our ports because they want to make money. Shipping companies that fail to comply will result in sanctions and service withdrawal by next week”
“Within one week, if it requires withdrawing service from APMT, we would do it”, she warned.
She said that empty containers littering the ports must be shipped out by the shipping lines.
She said that NPA would no longer tolerate terminal operators conniving with shipping companies to rip off Nigerians by introducing arbitrary and unrecognized charges
The NPA boss assured that the review of port concession agreement would be concluded in May 2018, assuring the terminal operators that payments to NPA would no longer be based Gross Tonnage, but on throughput.
“Terminal operators, you need to pay up your debts as we are going to be heavy-handed within the next few weeks, we would have possible withdrawal of service as a way of sanctioning, please note that these sanctions would come in place within the next few weeks”
Hadiza also said that NPA is making moves to take over the construction of the Tin Can Island Port roads from the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing. She said that funding for it would be considered as NPA’s contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) payable to the ministry by all government agencies.
General Manager, Marine, and Operations of NPA, Joshua Asanga confirmed that there would be inspection of shipping companies and terminal operators activities on a regular basis and enforcement from a team set up by NPA.
Asanga said that apart from the shipping companies that have been sanctioned, the team would also embark on inspection of petroleum tank farms this week, and it would beam its searchlight on how many of them actually have holding bays to accommodate their trucks.
He said a team made up of NPA, truckers, and other stakeholders have carried out an inspection on holding bays purportedly owned by shipping companies and found out that the land does not actually belong to some of them, while many do not have up to the capacity they claimed. He said that many do not have holding bays at all.
On his part, Managing Director of Hull Blyth Shipping Company, Christopher Holmes said that the problem at the port is not about lack of holding bay, but that the capacity is not enough.
He claimed that his company has a holding bay of 8,000 container capacity