Taking a long and hard look at the shipping industry, the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, has lamented that, in spite of the advantages offered by Nigerian ports, abysmal policy formulation by the Federal Government is chasing away much of the expected cargo throughput at the nation’s facilities to the ports of neighbouring countries on the West African coast.
Haastrup, who is Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, bared her mind in an interview with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.
“Those patronising ports of neighboring countries are doing so basically because of policies of government. Let’s talk about rice. As at this month of August, our terminal has handled only one shipment of rice throughout this year. Why? The Customs duty on rice is now 110 percent. So what is happening now is that it is cheaper for the rice importers to go to Republic of Benin to discharge their rice cargo and they have a way, it is an open thing, they may say it is not happening; on daily basis they know how to get it across to the Nigerian market. At the end of the day, it is cheaper for them to get it done that way. The landing cost is far cheaper than doing it in Nigeria,” she said.
She added: “Also some categories of cargo, for instance, banned cargo, is also easy for them to go to Republic of Benin to get it discharged and find a way to get to the Nigerian market. Ordinarily, people will not go to Republic of Benin because our ports in Nigeria are much cheaper and more efficient. And I keep on saying it, again and again, they go to the Republic of Benin because of Federal Government policies.”
Haastrup did not spare tank farm operations in her analysis of ports operational challenges, particularly in the Lagos area, as she noted: “The concentration of oil jetties and depots within the port environment is also dangerous to our business. It also has a multiplier effect on the total cost, and that is why trucking is also very expensive compared to what it used to be in those days, because people who are in the truck business are not able to do more than one trip in a day and to even access the terminals in the port takes a number of days and that is not good for the system. I have spoken about this at many stakeholders’ meetings or conferences and I have written to government on it. I never got a response and I am really passionate about this and I want to ensure that these oil jetties are relocated. It is not good for our business and it is never done in any part of the world; it is only in Nigeria that this is happening and it is really so cumbersome, so frustrating to get into the port environment to do business because of these tank farms.”