The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has urged truck operators to reduce their haulage rates to decongest the nation’s seaports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a meeting with truck owners under the aegis of Council of Maritime Truck Union and Association (COMTUA), the Executive Secretary of NSC, Hassan Bello, said the truck owners must make sacrifice and contribute to the sustainability of the nation’s economy during the crisis.
According to him, the nation doesn’t need astronomical or unrealistic freight rate as the ports need to be decongested.
He said, “We are here to discuss about the issue of cost. NSC has tried to bring out indicative freight rate for guidance though we are not directing you to obey that but what we are doing is what is obtainable anywhere in the world. We can’t continue to have price differentials at the whims and caprices of the owners. There must be some guidelines on freight rate just like we are doing with shipping companies, terminal operators and consolidators.
“Everyone must have a price regime and we are not fixing the price, we are leaving that to demand and supply but we said there must be some limit because shippers abroad everyday make enquiries but we are at a loss because there is no standard indicative rate. We want you to help us to have a standard rate so that there will be competition.”
Bello said the rate reduction should be seen as a form of sacrifice from the truck owners, saying the agency will further engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on reduction of their charges.
“We want you to look at the cost because everyone is making a sacrifice, the terminal operators, shipping companies have made sacrifice and we are looking at NPA and NIMASA so that they will reduce their cost during this time as their contributions to the Nigerian economy. Please don’t allow Nigerian economy to be at standstill and after the COVID-19, we don’t want it to be written that it is owners of trucks that let the nation down.
“We are stakeholders’ sensitive, we appeal to your patriotic sentiment to keep people in employment, operate at the port and let’s clear the cargoes. Right now, there are vessels lining up to come into the port to discharge but there is no space so, I know the usual strategy is taking empties and bring laden but we need to look at the need of the country and we need to make sacrifice.
“So, I appeal to you to look at the cost because we don’t need astronomical or unrealistic cost and these trucks must have easier access to come in and out of the port in a much organised manner to take already available cargoes,” he said.
General Coordinator of COMTUA, Stephen Okafor, assured that the truck owners will lower their price to meet present realities.
“On pricing, I agree there are several times we have been meeting on freight rate standardisation and Shippers’ Council came up with rate but they were not enforced. We have so many unions in the industry. So I think we need to call a larger meeting to come up with a uniform freight rate. We are not against coming down on the pricing and I think I agree that should be part of our own contribution,” Okafor said.