NAGAFF writes Shippers’ Council boss, appreciates roles played during Covid-19 lockdown


…Says lockdown exposed irregularities in ports management, administration

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has acknowledged “the unquantifiable and vast” roles played by the Economic Regulator of the Nigerian maritime industry, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) through the various incentives to ease the clearance of essential goods out of the ports during the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja by the federal government.

The National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche who gave the acknowledgement in a letter addressed to the Executive Secretary/CEO of the NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello by and made available to Primetime Reporters yesterday said members of the association were indeed humbled by the strategic arrangements put together by the NSC covering a good number palliative measures to facilitate freight forwarding operations across the nation’s seaports, shipping companies and other critical parties at the peak of the Presidential directive on lockdown and restriction of movements in Lagos, Ogun and FCT occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Uche recalled that while NAGAFF was still brainstorming on the way out of the quagmire created by the order 42 of the Presidential directives which mandated that seaports shall remain operational during the lockdown, the news of the various measures put in place by the Executive Secretary/CEO of NSC to address the otherwise cumbersome operational burden on the part of the freight forwarders and the importing public came to them as a huge relief.

He said that members of the association were indeed encouraged and shall ever remain grateful at this proactive action taken by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in sustaining seaports operations at such an unusual situation in spite of all odds.

The NAGAFF Chief pointed out that the diligent efforts made by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council were quite immeasurable covering; provision of 12 bus shuttle services to convey freight forwarders and other port users from over seven corridors that connect Lagos environs to and fro the seaports at Apapa and Tincan Island with adequate security, hand sanitizers and face masks, routine visits to the Seaport Terminals Operators, shipping companies and various Police stations by the Executive Secretary, his management team and leaders of the freight forwarding groups. These visits afforded the ES/CEO and his team the opportunity to have first-hand information on actual situation on ground and to address the various complaints affecting the freight forwarders in the interim.

According to him, there were also prompt interventions even on weekends by the Executive Secretary/CEO on reports of Police harassment and detention of freight forwarders (as the case may be) who were legitimately carrying out their lawful duties as essential logistics service providers in line with Presidential directives, brokering of demurrage waivers on shipping containers with Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN) to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on shippers/consignee. This waiver, he said covered shipments that landed at the ports from March 30, 2020 to April 3, 2020.

He also listed linking together other relevant stakeholders through establishment of the Maritime Task Team to integrate all the players in the industry with the aim of ease of contact with each other particularly in addressing issues that concern the respective parties; negotiation with haulage operators to slash trucking charges by at least 3o% to make trucking charges competitive and affordable to shippers as well as constant and close monitoring of the compliance level of service providers on the Presidential directives on ports operations and the protocols on Covid-19 till date.

“The timely intervention by the NSC actually helped significantly to reduce what could have amounted to an unmitigated liability on the freight forwarders by the sudden lockdown, stemmed the tide of perennial congestion that was uncontrollably building up at the ports terminals, reduced the ship waiting time at anchorage within the period which hitherto was getting worst by the day, helped to control cargo inventory at the seaport terminals, increased the revenue accruable to the government even under the lockdown and apparently reduced the loss of investments by the shippers, port users, investors, freight forwarders and merchants.

“On the other hand, the experience encountered during this period of ports operation under the Covid-19 lockdown exposed so many irregularities in our nation’s maritime administration and ports management especially the need to eliminate all manual processes to give way to system automation and full deployment of digital technology in all ports processes and procedures.

“Going forward, we would like to advise that a feed forward mechanism be put in place to provide measures that would take adequate care of the various disturbing variables in modeling our international trade rules and guidelines with reforms  that would replace our legacy processes with modern facilities for online fund transfer, e-invoicing, e-confirmation of payments and e-Delivery Orders (DOs) processing, implementation of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), deployment of the National Single Window (NSW) project and provision of functional scanners and/or a more advanced technology like the RFID Microchips at our ports and all entry points into Nigeria.

“These are the corrective actions needed to be put in place to make our ports competitive and avoid further upsetting the cargo clearance and documentation processes. It would be instructive to assert that if these variables are quickly put in place, they would go a long way in quickening the recovery process of the general economy after the pandemic”, he said.

Uche further expressed the association’s deep appreciation of the timely intervention and follow-up of the recent resolution of the near conflict scenario between freight forwarders and the service providers that could have resulted in total disruption of port operations adding that “this is the more reason we shall continue to request that all the government regulatory agencies must stamp their authorities at all times against the excesses of the service providers.”

“Again is to draw the attention of the Economic Regulator (NSC) on the need to curtail the activities of the splinter groups mushrooming as freight agents at the ports by taking a firm and decisive action that will bring total sanitization of the freight forwarding profession in collaboration with the CRFFN”, he further stated.

He continued, “NAGAFF is glad to be associated with the NSC and shall continue to rub minds with the Council with the aim of developing system dynamic models that provide the best compromise in reducing the myriads of challenges at our ports to ensure the facilitation of our international trade activities, enhance cargo transportation to the hinterland, modernization of customs formalities and the effective and the effective and efficient control or our maritime logistics supply chains.”

Photo: NAGAFF National President, Chief Increase Uche.

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