Shippers’ Council to introduce minimum share capital for freight forwarders: Commences review of port concession agreement

It will no longer business as usual for freight forwarders in months to come as the nation’s port economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) is putting finishing touches to plans to introduce a minimum capital base for companies engaged in freight forwarding activities.

Executive Secretary/CEO of NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello, gave indication to this effect weekend during an interactive session with senior media practitioners in Lagos.

Bello, who decried the lack of professionalism and absence of sanity in the freight forwarding industry, said that the minimum capital base to be introduced by the NSC will stimulate consolidation and weed out touts.

“There must be minimum standards. What we have at present is that someone will come to Lagos by night bus from Birnin Kebbi, arrives the following morning and he becomes a freight forwarder. This cannot be allowed to continue,” the NSC boss stated.

Bello also said that effective cargo clearance at the port is hampered by human elements that daily throng the ports.

He said: “It is only in Nigeria that you see the number of people you see in our ports. It is only in our ports that you see campaign posters (of freight forwarders) inside the yards. Our clearing system is near primitive hence the high cost of doing business at the port.

“We must sanitise the port. Unfortunately we are coming in after the game has started.

“As commercial regulator, we are now the referee of the game and our aim is to sanitise the industry.

“We will be democratic in fulfilling this mandate but there are times when we have to apply force to fulfill this mandate.”

He said the port concession agreement signed by the Federal Government and private terminal operators is long overdue for review. The agreement, according to him, should have been reviewed every two years but has remained untouched since 2006.

He said the NSC is working with all stakeholders to review the agreement to ensure that all parties play their roles as stipulated in the contract.

Since NSC was appointed interim port economic regulator in February this year, it has met with various stakeholders and interest groups to seek their support and buy-in towards executing its mandate. The NSC management had assured port operators and users that it would maintain fairness in serving as umpire of the port.

“This assignment is a re-affirmation of what we have been doing trying to see that there is balance in the industry. We have always been an umpire trying to see that the needed balance necessary for efficiency is maintained. We are going to work with you and for you. We see the ways things are done elsewhere to ensure that international standards are maintained in Nigeria,” Bello had told private terminal operators at the port when he met with them in Lagos.

He said the Council will find it difficult to fulfill its new mandate without the cooperation of stakeholders.

“We need your partnership, your understanding. We need you to trust us to see that we are going to move this industry forward for your benefit and for the benefit of those who consume your services,” he said, assuring that the NSC would not take sides with any of the interested parties including importers, exporters and agents.

Neutrality, objectivity and fairness would be the watchword of the Council, going forward, he said.

“To make things work, we will do joint project that we will conceive together with you. We have so many issues in the port with the shippers but we are going to streamline these things to make it transparent. Things we do will be scientific also. We cannot be sentimental about this important industry,” Bello stated.