As the Lekki Deep Seaport is set for full operation, stakeholders in the maritime industry have advised the concessionaires of the already existing ports in Lagos otherwise known as terminal operators to square up for competition so as to avoid being used as mere feeder ports.
Rising from a strategic professional consultative meeting, the stakeholders observed that the ongoing negotiations for port concession renewals should consider such critical industry components ranging from the right definitions of operational activities, phrases, operational rebates and tax regime.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting and signed by a former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr Eugene Nweke, the consultative meeting said that it reviewed the available statistics on Cargo Trans-shipment operations within the sub-region adding that the available statistics prompted the meeting to reconsider the ideal workings of an efficient ports, as thus:
“To facilitate movement in any given port, raft such as boats, ships and barges are required to move both people and goods, but to facilitate trade, the port has to provide the docks, floats, piers, gangway, tugboat, and other conveniences that will make the ships to be properly engaged and utilized and as well accommodate and maintain seamless flow of watercraft traffic.
“With the increase in the volume of world trading activities on the sea (imports and exports), it is considerate to posit that the size and efficiency of a port is an indication of how successful the surrounding regions are as such ports are vital components of shipping business.
“Unfortunately, with noticeable port congestion and traffic gridlock in and along our port corridor, the economic benefits of port concession of 1996 seems to be an uphill tasks and the core objective almost a mirage. This situation has thrown up new industry sections like Barge operations, increasing bonded terminal operational activities, unfortunately regulatory function is not promptly coordinated, leading to the high costs of shipping and port business in Nigeria, unfriendly and uncompetitive.
“The meeting noted that with the commissioning of the first deep seaport, even as it sets for full operations, it has become necessary and also advisable that the crop of brown ports managed by private operators has to square up for competition to avoid serving as a mere feeder ports. In this regards, the ongoing negotiations for port concession renewals, should consider such critical industry components ranging from the right definitions of operational activities and phrases and operational rebates and tax regime”, the communique said.
The meeting resolved to further its consultation with the concerned agency (ies) with the aim to genuinely brainstorm on: why port must be seen as an efficient organization at all time; to appreciate the essence of the global integration of performance indicators for port efficiency in the ports system; to consider other viable requirements for an efficient port; to set an achievable goals towards achieving port efficiency performance indicators and to boost port competitiveness.
The communique, however, explained that the consultative meeting was prompted by noticeable professional absence in the emerging trends and at the ongoing global discourse by the comity of global freight forwarding nations.
It added that the agenda at the global consideration include but not limited to the following: the evolution of the SMART BORDERS Concept which it said was in support of the Sustainable Development Goal ( SDG) of the United Nations (UN) Agenda 2030.
“It recalled that the concept makes room for Customs to ensure: timely delivery of raw materials to industries; reduce unfair business competition; open opportunities for all business interests to access raw materials; create a transparent, conducive and predictable conditions for trade/passengers; facilitate legitimate trade that will in turn contribute positively to economic growth as well as boost job creation.
“In this direction, the meeting resolved to carry out a robust review on the level of compliance to the SGD from the Nigeria freight forwarders perspective and document same for a global representation. Equally, the meeting took a holistic review of the present clearance process and procedures within the customs ports with deep reservations, even though, commending its efforts at reinstalling mobile scanning machines at some ports. It therefore, resolve to further its professional consult and engagement”, the Communique further stated.
According to the communique, the consultative meeting narrow its reflection for the day on the following global concerns:
a). Today, freight forwarding practices revolves around a growing E-Commerce Logistics Solution where Information Communications Technology drives the international trade security and value adding supply chain. Notably, both the World Trade Organization and World Customs Organization now focus attention on “Exploring the Integrated E-commerce Logistics Solutions”.
b). Revisit the current annual growth rate in the thriving: Business to Customer ( B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and the Producer to Consumer (P2C). It noted the grappling challenges inherent in this increasingly demanding innovative logistics solutions. Wherefore, it posited that there will be need to chart a course towards the growing need to choose the right kind of Customs procedures that will open new potential for improvement and advancement of the evolving new markets concepts.
c). Reconsider the update and possibly outcome of the WTO treatise consideration to E-commerce, especially as it relates to the ‘plurilaterals’ discussion following the proposals submitted by the ‘plurilaterals’ members, among the developing countries, including Nigeria, expressing their discomfort with the US model of digital trade rules centered around “Free Data Flows”.
d). Expresses serious concerns on the E-commerce Moratorium. Though the WTO’s Customs Duties E-commerce Moratorium has been halted since 2019. However, the increasingly globalization disruption points to the fact that trading goods electronically may not be easy to abate. As such this Moratorium if continued may mean a continuation of zero customs duties on goods which are traded via electronic transmissions. Above all, there will be tariff revenue losses as well as the loss of policy space for those who may try to support their domestic industries in electronic traded goods.
“In view of this, the meeting resolved to further its strategic consultative goals with the management team of the Nigeria Customs Service. As it stands, without mincing words, the Customs cannot boast of deploying requisite energy in this aspect of trade model and inherent revenue generation thereof”, the communique added.
It further informed that the meeting, as well, contemplated on the options to discuss and kickstart a domestication process for the two (2) globally approved and applicable imports clearance documents newly introduced by the International Federation of Freight Forwarding Associations, FIATA across the WTO signatory countries.
“However, the meeting resolved to stay action for a while with a convinction that the man made crisis in the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN will fizzle out soonest so as to prompt the essence and effectiveness of the Freight Forwarders’ Consultative Forum obligations.
“The meeting purposely chose not to review nor dwell on the happenings in the CRFFN administration trusting that since the new Honorable Minister of Transport has resolve to wade into the crisis in the CRFFN and by extension listen to the myriads of operational challenges that has bedeviled the practitioners as posited by the various freight forwarding interests groups via summits/conferences communiques”, it concluded.
Stakeholders who attended the strategic professional consultative meeting comprised of the former Chairman of the Governing Council of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju, former National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu and the former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Eugene Nweke.
Photo: (L-R): Former National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, former Chairman, Governing Council, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN, Aare Hakeem Olanrewaju and the former National President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Dr. Eugene Nweke shortly after the strategic professional consultative meeting in Lagos.
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