Minister, Senator, others applaud port concession, terminal operators

The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar has commended terminal operators for their role in stabilising and making Nigerian ports effective and efficient since the port reforms of 2006.

The Minister gave the commendation at a conference tagged ‘Monitoring and Compliance – The Experience of Compliance with Concessioning Agreement Eight Years After’ organized by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Lagos yesterday.

The Minister, who was represented by the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, said the port concession programme had brought tremendous benefits to the Nigerian economy.

He said, “Prior to concessioning of the ports in 2006, our ports were characterized by high cost, low efficiency, obsolete equipment, leakages and high level of centralization.

“But, since concessioning, there had been increase in both local and foreign investments, in infrastructure and cargo handling equipment which have enhanced cargo throughput.”

Umar said the benefits of port concession can be seen in the rise in volume of trade from 82 million tons of cargo in 2008 to 93.7 million tons in 2009 and 100 million tons in 2012 with container volume of 1.4 million TEUs in 2011; 1.6 million TEUs in 2012 and 1.7million TEUs in 2013.

“The average turnaround time of vessels has also decreased significantly,” he said.

According to him, “The outcome of the reform made NPA a landlord and technical regulator while the ports were delineated into terminals and concessioned to terminal operators who are now responsible for all aspects of cargo handling, operations and upgrade of facilities.”

While stating that a lot more work needs to be done in monitoring compliance with the port concession agreement, the Minister directed NPA to furnish him with current compliance status by the operators.

“I urge you to take advantage of this forum aimed at ensuring compliance with the terms of the port concession agreement to deliberate on the gains and challenges of concession, share ideas as well as brainstorm on the way forward in order to further develop the industry to stimulate economic growth,” the Minister added.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Olugbenga Obadara, in his goodwill address at the event said, “I have visited all the terminals in Lagos and I loved the way the MD of NPA has handled the issue of bonded terminals with passion.

“The NPA MD also makes sure that the bonded terminals were able to keep their business moving.”

Obadara sympathized with terminal operators who have been incurring losses as a result of the drop in import volume and depreciation of the naira, saying: “I know how much the economy has affected your business especially the dollar rate.”

The Senator charged NPA to ensure continuous dredging of the channels to accommodate large vessels.

On his part, Director General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Aminu Diko said terminal operators had served the public good.

Diko who was represented by an Executive Director of the Commission, Chidi Izuah said, “We are pleased to report that in 2014, the terminal operators have improved beyond when they were met in 2011.”

Earlier in his welcome address, Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mallam Habib Abdullahi, commended the terminal operators for giving Nigerian ports a new lease of life.

Abdullahi said that NPA is a direct beneficiary in the partnership with the concesssionaires.

“The port concession arrangements revised roles and allocated different obligations to both NPA and the concessionaries.

“Obligations were allocated based on what each party can do best.

“These issues relating to regulations, security, infrastructure, access, marine service and channel management were allocated to NPA.

“On the other hand issue of cargo handling, commercial risk, provision of superstructure, terminal development and terminal labour were on the account of operator,” he said.

Abdullahi said that NPA had set up an appropriate framework for monitoring and compliance by terminal operators.

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