Private terminal operators under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) have said that handling transhipment cargo for Nigeria’s landlocked neighbouring countries is not a commercially viable venture.
STOAN Chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup, who disclosed this in Lagos recently, said that except the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is willing to subsidise the landlocked country’s transactions at Nigeria’s seaports, her members will not have anything to do with their cargoes.
Haastrup said the terms and conditions under which NPA handled transhipment cargoes in the pre-port concession era were not favourable to the ports.
She the price which NPA charged the landlocked countries including Chad and Niger Republic for the handling of the consignments was ridiculously low and not commercially tenable.
“NPA as a government agency was probably playing the normal “big brother” to neighbouring African countries but we are private people, we cannot do that Father Christmas for anybody.
“If the land –locked countries are ready to pay the normal rates in cargo handling, we will be very willing to do business with them,” she said.
She said terminal operators will handle transshipment cargoes of the landlocked nations only if NPA is willing to pay the shortfall in the amount paid by shippers of the affected countries.
The STOAN chairman also expressed pride in the achievement of concessionaires at the nation’s seaports over the past eight years of port concession.
“We are proud of our achievements at the ports these past eight years. We have done a lot. We have improved operation and modernized the ports. Before now, equipment and cargo availability were a huge challenge at the ports. Vessels had to queue endlessly to secure berthing space. The ports were completely run down but the story is now different. We now have port terminals that Nigerians measures to port terminals in developed countries and that Nigerians can be proud of,” Haastrup stated.
Haastrup also said that the port environment is heavily congested due to the activities of non-core port operations including tank farms which she said are “too close to the ports.”
“Too many businesses that shouldn’t be at the port are located around the port environment and this makes access to the port a major challenge,” she said.
She said running port terminals in Nigeria is more challenging than in any other part of the world citing epileptic power supply, and multiple taxation and inconsistent government policies as major burdens concessionaires regularly contend with.