The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Hasstrup, weekend canvassed the need for government to put in place enabling laws that would drive reforms towards sustainable growth in the maritime sector.
Speaking at the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference at the University of Lagos, with the theme: ‘Innovations and Practical Reforms towards Sustainable Growth in the maritime sector’, Hasstrup urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the National Transport Commission (NTC) bill to bring about necessary reforms and innovations in the maritime industry.
“The port cannot be reformed if we don’t have an enabling law in place. The Transport Commission bill needs to be passed to bring about the necessary reforms and innovation that the maritime industry needs at this critical time. Government should see to the passage of the NTC bill because it is the bill that will moderate every stakeholder on the way business should be done, the responsibilities of all parties that are operating within the maritime sector including the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), shipping companies and even the terminal operators. It is long overdue that we should have that in place.
“Right laws need to be passed to support those who have invested money in the sector. If we don’t have right enabling law that gives them comfort that they will be able to recoup whatever investment they have put in place, it will be difficult to get people to invest,” she said.
The Executive Vice Chairman, Sifax Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi in whose honour the lecture was held, called for strong implementation of existing reforms, which he noted is capable of creating sustainable growth in the sector.
“Surely, we do not lack innovations due to the constant engagements and collaboration between the operators and regulatory agencies in the sector. We have loads of reforms that can create sustainable growth in the maritime sector. I urge a strong implementation and feedback mechanism and those who have initiated a reform process should be allowed to see it through to the end.
“The nation’s maritime industry has overtime seen various policies such as the port concessioning reforms, truck standardization policies, cabotage law and several others with the sole aim of eliciting growth in the sector. But, may I say that while some of these polices have catapulted the industry to its next level growth, more policies/reforms and most importantly a strong implementation mechanism is still being desired.
“Despite the challenges facing the Nigerian maritime sector, the Nigerian port reform policy, which brought the private sector into operations, is indeed a huge success. The success of port reforms, which was introduced in 2006, can be appreciated from the shorter turn-around time for vessels at berth, shorter cargo dwell time, improved safety of cargoes at berth and at terminals as well as less human interface and contact,” he said.
Afolabi, who noted that the attacks on ships could be tackled with the right innovative approach, appealed to the Federal Government and relevant agencies to further fortify the nation’s coastal areas and maritime boundaries against maritime crimes to make the marine environment safe and secured.
In his goodwill message at the event, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, advocated a reform in the haulage system even as he disclosed that the council has prepared a bill that would legislate the carriage of goods by land.
According to him, “It is not a serious thing for us to have owner-driver thing that we have. We need to have registered fleet, which will pass the test so that carriage of goods from the port to the hinterland will be secured and fast. What we have now are rickety trucks breaking down all the way and there is no legislation to guide carriage of goods by land.
“The council has gotten a bill, which we hope will be passed to the parliament. We have to regulate the carriage of goods by land, which means there must be liability, insurance, the responsibility of the owner of the transport and the owner of the cargo.”
Bello urged the Federal Government to ensure provision of basic infrastructure such as good roads and rail connectivity to facilitate movement of cargoes out of the port.