18 March 2018, Sweetcrude, Lagos — IN a bid to enhance port operations, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBEC, has directed shipping firms operating in Nigeria to ensure that ship manifests are electronically transmitted to relevant stakeholders seven days before the arrival of the vessel.
Speaking during a meeting with maritime stakeholders over the weekend, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Jumoke Oduwole said that the Council in January a National Action Plan and directed the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to look at the shipping firms with a view to reducing dwell time and ultimately reduce cost.
Oduwole also said that the policy is being proposed to make the ports operate seamlessly and enhance cross-border trading.
She said “The Vice President and the Central Bank of Nigeria have been working with about ten ministers that have a critical role to play in the business environment.
“The effort is to make the port operate as seamlessly as possible and enhance cross-border trading.
“There are plans to install scanners and establish a single window project.
“Whatever the policies that the government may come up with, it is to assist shipping firms to reduce dwell time.
The new directive from PEBEC is part of an effort by the Federal Government to facilitate cargo clearance at the nation’s ports and improve the ease of doing business in the country.
“What we are asking for is global best practice and it is nothing beyond the shipping lines. They operate in other climes and they have committed to us that they will indeed be sending in the manifest as requested. We are going to work with customs and the Shippers Council to make it easier for them.
We know there will be hiccups but they have committed to doing that,” she said.
Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria, Val Usifor, while expressing the commitment of the shipping companies to work with the government to improve ease of doing business in the country, noted that the delay in the issuance of rotation number by Customs is one of the bottlenecks that must be addressed.
He noted that the average time it takes for an importer to get his container once a ship arrives is 20 days, a situation he blamed on bureaucracies by government agencies at the port.
He said, “We have assured them (PEBEC) they will get the corporation they need. Once the bottlenecks are addressed, these things can be done. The bottlenecks are created by the so many agencies in the port. Where you have people working for the same government and in competition, things don’t move.
“The system has to be fine-tuned. When the ship comes, it needs a rotation number from Customs. So what has been agreed is that once the bulk of the manifest has been lodged and it has a rotation number, we are suggesting that the rotation number should be maintained for cargoes that are coming from way ports. For instance, if the ship passes through Cape Town, and we have a lot of cargoes being transmitted from Cape Town, you don’t need to give another rotation number, it is just adding to the manifest.
“Once it has a rotation number, as the manifest is transmitted electronically, the importer knows he can starts processes his documents while waiting for the cargo to arrive.
“Shipping companies are not interested in demurrage. Demurrage is unnecessary because if the system works well and the importer is able to get his cargo on arrival within three days, he does not need to pay demurrage.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Executive Secretary, NCS, Hassan Bello, said the Council has been assigned to ensure and moderate the transmission of shipping lines manifest to NPA and Customs before the arrival of vessels to Nigeria.
He noted that it is the duty of the government to ensure a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive in Nigeria, adding that the cooperation and support of stakeholders will help move the industry forward.
“This meeting is purposely to have stakeholders input. The business of enabling business environment is very important and critical to the investment that we have. It is always the aspiration of the government to manage that conducive atmosphere so that the private sector will carry out its business squarely.
“And it is the responsibility of the government to not only protect the investors but guarantee return on investment and this could be done only by giving the private sector the leverage and good atmosphere.
“The purpose of this meeting is to know the challenges raised by the shipping companies and then their request of what to do. We are also here to engage the stakeholders, shippers in particular and shipping lines to discuss the ways which we can move forward,” he said