The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, has said the agency has granted the necessary waivers to ensure that vessel owners dry-dock their vessels in Nigeria to save the country multi-million dollars spent on ship repairs outside the country.
Bala-Usman revealed this while speaking during a webinar, titled: “COVID-19 and the Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons and Way Forward,” organised by maritime lawyer, Mike Igbokwe.
In her words; “NPA has given a waiver for vessels that are meant for servicing and dry-docking and this has enabled vessel owners to competitively dry-dock in Nigeria.
“This is important for us to build that sector and retain jobs in Nigeria. We have done our bit in promoting that sector and I call on the associations to bring up any other areas where government can intervene and help keep that business in Nigeria and develop skill to retain job and grow the industry.”
She stated that the NPA would discuss with ship-owners on the issues of applicable policies around berthing of vessels in the West African region stressing that the NPA is keen to resolve the matter in a timely manner.
She further revealed the NPA was working with terminal operators to further deploy more equipment to ensure efficiency and timely clearing of cargo.
“We are improving efficiency at the ports; one of the things that have hindered us is the absence of a national single window. We are working to ensure less human activity at the port by automating process.
“Some of the critical components however depend on the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), we are all pushing to drive that and ensure that this automation is implemented within the shortest period.
Speaking on the disagreement between terminal operators and consignees over waiver granted during the lockdown, she said the NPA has asked the consignees to forward claims to it for refund.
“The NPA has granted waiver on rent free for consignees within the period of the lockdown, we had received some push backs from terminal operators where they were not willing to comply with the directive.
“We have encouraged all consignees to send directly to the NPA details of any consignment that had that they had to pay and we will ensure they are refunded. We have been receiving several of the letters and we are auctioning them to the terminal operators to get clarification and ensure that refund is giving during that period,” he added.
On the lessons learnt from the pandemic, she said the NPA like every other stakeholder or organisation globally have had to come to terms with the realities of COVID-19 and provided the necessary understanding of what is required to operate while the pandemic is on.
“We have noted the concerns of our personnel in line with what is required to board a vessel. Concerns about any form of infection has been some of the challenges we have faced-the need to be properly kitted and be safe while they embark on their duties.
“We also at the beginning tried to understand the implementation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Country (NCDC) as regards to port health and also ensure that both sides have a clear understanding of what is to be done.
“Some of the submissions that we have had from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 around having vessels wait for 14 days from any country that have above 1000 infections is being reviewed to lift that number up because within the sub-region have passed those numbers. We cannot keep saying vessels coming from Terma Port Ghana or other West African countries need to stay at our anchorage for additional 14 days”.
She stated that this a big concern that we have with shipping companies and she stressed on the need to monitor crewmembers of a ship.
She concluded that In line with the IMO protocol to ensure that vessels are giving free passage into ports and out of ports, there is need to live into that and convince the presidential task force and stakeholders that priority should be given to vessels to come in and out as required.