Partnership is key to growing Nigerian maritime industry – Bot-Mang
On the sidelines of the inaugural meeting of the Indigenous Shipping Agents and Operators Association of Nigeria (ISAON), Chairman of the association’s Board of Trustees, Mr. Pam Bot-Mang, speaks on the rationale for setting up the association, as well as ISAON’s vision to enthrone professionalism in the sector. He spoke with Ewomazino Akpor.
Why set up an association that looks like already existing ones?
As a participant and a player in the maritime industry for over 17 years, you will agreed with me that as a ship agent and an operator there are so many things we face daily, one you are under pressure from the owners, that you represent their interest here in Nigeria, you are under pressure from the consignee may be the charterers, or the receivers of the cargo that we import because Nigeria is a country that is heavily dependent on import. So all these issues are left for the shipping agent to deal with, then you come to the side of the authority, we have NIMASA, NPA and now we have concessionaires called terminal operators, they all come up with different rules and regulations which we have to deal with and we have to convey that to your principal and it is a big issue and because of that we decided to come together and put ourselves together and have a voice and come up with something that can regulate us as shipping agents and be able to say sir this decision you are about to take or you have taken was not taken in the interest of the people who are actually doing the job. Efficiency can be increased in the port when we the operators now do things the proper way and equally advise our members to do things the proper way. So it is just a way of bringing together shipping agents. Today you have an umbrella body, the clearing agents have theirs, the ship chandlers have theirs, but how come the shipping agents that actually do this job of bringing in these vessels don’t have an association, so that was the reason behind the formation of this association.
What new thing are you bringing up with this association?
The other associations are not agents they are basically ship owners, when they owned ships; they need people like us to husband their vessels in Nigeria to bring in the vessels to port, declare what they have. A ship owner do not necessarily have to be a ship manager, it is just like owning a car and giving it out to the taxi drivers and they have their drivers’ association differently but they also have a transport owners association, so we are not in competition with ship owners. We are agents and we want to do our work by husbanding their vessels, liaising between the principal and the authority. We intend to achieve a level playing field for all members of the association within this industry. We intend to achieve good communication relationship between the government agencies that are in charge of this industry, and the operators that practice this trade in Nigeria. It is one thing to have a robust association that knows its onion and it is also another thing to have the authorities that you relate with understand where you are coming from and knowing that you are partners in progress. I want to be seen and identified as the person that made this association to be a partner with NIMASA, NPA and the terminal operators. We want to contribute to port development because we know where the problems are, we are the ones that will advise NPA if there are no tug boats and if they are affecting our operations. They need to talk to us and see what we can do to make NPA, NIMASA, to be more productive and generate money for the government.
Are you saying that the association is being established to give your members a voice?
I will not use the word that we have been cheated over the years because it is a business that you go into willingly because nobody forces you into it, but have we had a fair share of the business opportunities and potentials we are supposed to, no we haven’t. Have we been taken along in decision making no we have not and a lot of time most things that they do affect the shipping agents first and foremost it is the shipping agent. The clearing agents have very robust associations in terms of ANLCA, NAGAFF and the rest. You will notice that once there is increase in charges there is always a protest and they must demand why but in the case of shipping agents there was even a change in the tariff structure, nobody could come and demand why. I wouldn’t go there in my capacity as Platinum Shipping, because they will laugh at me but when you have a group of people come together and say this is what they want to do, the chance is that they will achieve what they have planned to do. Our interest is to have a common voice in the industry which will guide our members about our operational procedures. The job of the shipping agents is like the job of the banker because you are entrusted with their investment, their investments in terms of the ships and the cargo. There must be a code of conduct for people who operate in this industry. We must be ethical and honest. If we say we are bringing 30 tons of rice let it be the 30 tons, let the government get their dues for the 30 tons. So we want to partner with these government agencies in the maritime sector because gone are the days people coming to do shipping agents do some fraudulent things. We want people to see every shipping agents as men and women of honour and honest persons worth dealing with, who are accountable for every kobo collected from ship owners to husband their vessels. We must all contribute, to make the outside world see Nigeria as a place to do business. We are not coming to fight anybody. We want a level paying field where everybody will benefit.
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