Activities in the maritime sector closed for the week with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) announcing the arrival of 17 vessels laden with petroleum products to the Lagos ports.
The week opened with reports of a publication by a Norwegian newspaper, that a company belonging to former Niger Delta militant, Mr. Government Ekpemupolo alias “Tompolo”, bought seven decommissioned Norwegian war boats.
The ships were reported to have been a part of the company’s maritime fleet patrolling under a contract for the Federal Government.
However, on Tuesday, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) in reaction to the report, claimed ownership of the patrol boats.
The Director General of NIMASA, Mr Ziakede Akpobolokemi, told newsmen at his year-end briefing that the company operated a public private partnership agreement with the agency, to provide it with security boats.
The NIMASA boss also said that the agency was well prepared to rid the nation’s maritime domain of pirates and kidnappers.
He said the agency’s satellite system had served for the security of the waterways while plans were on to introduce a radar system to boost the security operation.
On the trade front, the Nigeria Customs Service reinstated the First Bank of Nigeria Plc as one of its duty-collection banks after a detailed debt-recovery plan.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi, said the bank was suspended from offering duty-collection service due to a failure of its customers to redeem a bond amounting to N3.64 billion secured by the bank.
The comptroller-General directed thereafter that agents and importers to begin payment transactions with the bank, adding that the service would recognise properly entered bonds as trade facilitation tool.
At mid-week, activities in the industry started with a strike action by the dock workers union at the nation’s ports.
They had embarked on the strike after a 21- day notice issued to management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Leadership of the union said their grievances resulted from an alleged ploy by the NPA Management to replace the dock workers with an unknown group of people.
They said that as a result of the problem that had lingered for up to three years, the government had refused to pay their salaries in the last six months.
The strike was called off at the close of work on the same day following talks with the NPA management.
Some stakeholders, however, disclosed that the businesses at the ports may have lost about N20 billion as a result of the one day industrial action.
It was good news for trade after all, as a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Wednesday upheld the appointment of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as port economic regulator.
The court also dismissed a case filed by members of the Association of Shipping Lines Agency (ALSA) against the NSC over a directive to the agencies to reduce their shipping line agency charges (SLAC) and refund container deposits within 10 days.
On the same day, stakeholders at a meeting with the sub-committee on port reforms under the National Economic Management team, addressed issues on operational challenges at the nation’s ports.
Various stakeholders raised points on what they believed to be the bottleneck to the effective service delivery at the ports. Notably, the state of the port access roads, indiscriminate parking of trucks around the port corridors and cumbersome procedures were top on the list of issues that they wanted the technical committee to look into.
Head of the team, Mr Gabriel Ajuda, noted that the port system must be fully automated as well as the building of human capacity to match the machinery that would handle the system at that the ports.
The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said it was not correct to blame the truck drivers entirely for the traffic congestion on the port access roads.
He called for the realisation of the promise by government to build truck holding bays where they could stay and operate an effective call-up system for trucks as had been suggested over time.
The Nigerian Navy on Thursday gave further clarification on the issue of the gunboats alleged to have been acquired by an ex-Niger Delta Militant Leader, Chief Ekpemupolo, (aka Tompolo).
The Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Austin Oyagha, during a press briefing in Abuja described as untrue the reports that Tompolo had acquired warships or gunboats.
He explained that the said gunboats belong to NIMASA and were being manned by personnel of the Nigerian Navy from the Maritime Command of the service as provided in an agreement between the agency and the Navy.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the state of the traffic situation around the Apapa and Tin Can Island port showed that a solution was yet to be proffered to the incessant traffic gridlock.
There was a stretch of container trucks on the road from Ijora into Apapa, causing other motorists to spend longer hours on the road, thereby wasting man-hour. (NAN)