Terminal operators are not responsible for the high cost of doing business at the ports, says Haastrup

Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators’ Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup, has exonerated private terminal operators from the high cost of doing business at the nation’s ports.
Speaking in her office shortly before receiving the Commissioner of the Ports Authority Police Command (PAPC) recently, Haastrup said that, contrary to the malicious information being peddled by the enemies of ports reform, terminal operators have actually reduced the cost of doing business at the ports, especially in the areas where they have direct influence.
She said: “The concessionaires did not bring about the increase in the cost of doing business at the ports. Of course, people do not want to hear this but that is the truth. At the ports, there are so many factors that can militate against bringing down costs of operations. We have so many people who operate within the port system. We have the concessionaires, the ship agents, clearing agents and numerous government agencies.
“The concessionaires have put in a lot of investments for efficient operations. For instance, within one year that we took over, we were able to increase the turnaround of vessels by about 75 per cent and in three to four years, we had doubled that achievement. If you do not develop the port or you do not invest in port operations, there is no way you can achieve that.”

Haastrup, who is also the Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of ENL Consortium – operators of Terminals ‘C’ and ‘D’ of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa – said that concessionaires have drastically reduced the dwell time of ships which translates to cost reduction.
“We have reduced the number of days ships stay at berth and that has reduced cost. The longer the time the ship stays at berth, the more money they pay. I remember the first rice ship that we did at ENL terminal in conjunction with the NPA because we had a one-month handover period at takeover in 2006; it stayed for 45 days at berth. There was a particular one that stayed for 60 days. We can discharge those ships in 12 days today. When a ship enters into demurrage, it costs money. So, that we’re able to handle ships efficiently and practically knock down the dwell time of the vessels at berth is a clear reduction in operations cost,” she said.
Haastrup said that Nigerian ports charges are competitive and much lower than in other developed ports.
“At times, people talk about our tariff. It is not something that is out of this world. If you compare our storage and terminal handling tariffs with what obtains abroad, we’re still cheap.
“When we took over in 2006, NPA was actually collecting more in terms of cargo dues. They brought the concessionaires’tariff down by 33 per cent. In other words, they reduced cargo dues by 33 per cent before we took over. NPA was actually doing it for more. Don’t forget, all those malpractices of those days were there before we took over.

“For instance, if you were to bring in your ship, you had to pay through your nose. Also, there was serious congestion at the ports. Congestion today, by the grace of God, has become a thing of the past. As I’m talking now, I’m the one canvassing for ships. I’m the one waiting for ships to come. I tell you, because of the efficiency in the Nigerian ports, Republic of Benin has suffered a lot,” she siad.
She said that the cost of doing business at Nigerian ports remain high due to the activities of other parties in the logistics chain, including shipping agents, clearing agents, shipping companies, and government agencies.
“Who is looking into their activities? Ship agents’ tariff is even higher than terminal operators’ charges, but nobody talks about that. There are lots of charges that the ship agents are not supposed to collect, but they do. Who’s looking at those things? There are also a lot of corrupt practices at the port. There have been instances where people bring their bills to us in ENL and we discover that it has been tampered with. They’ll go and print the letterhead of ENL and slam whatever bill they want to cut the throat of their client. This is part of the malpractices in the industry. But everyone heaps all the blame on the terminal operator. But the operators, as a matter of fact, are the ones spending money,” she stated.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.