Operators not complying with port concession agreement likely to face sanctions

 The Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, on Thursday directed the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to furnish his office with reports of concessionaires who had yet to comply with the concession agreement.

Idris, who was represented by Mr Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), gave the directive in Lagos at a one-day ``Monitoring and Compliance Conference.’’
He said that the Federal Government decided to introduce ports reform  to improve efficiency in port operations.
Idris said that the reform was meant to reduce the cost of port services and promote competition in provision of port services.
He said that the port reform was meant to make Nigerian ports the hub for international trade and shipping in West and Central Africa sub-region.
``This has made NPA the landlord and technical regulator, while the terminal operators are now responsible for cargo handling and upgrading of facilities.
``The concession has brought us increase in local and foreign investments in infrastructure and cargo handling improvement which has increased cargo throughput by volume of trade,'' Idris said.
Malam Habib Abdullahi, Managing Director of the NPA, said that the authority had made history in 2006 for concessioning the ports, following the economic reform agenda of the government.
Habib said that the authority concessioned cargo handling operations to private terminal operators through international competitive bidding.
``The port concession arrangements devised roles and allocate different obligations to both NPA and the concessionaries.
``Obligations were allocated based on what each party can do best.
``These issues relating to regulations, security, infrastructure, access, marine service and channel management were allocated to NPA, ‘’ Abdullahi said.
He said that on the other hand, issues of cargo handling, commercial risk, provision of superstructure, terminal development and terminal labour were left for the terminal operators.
Abdullahi, however, said that NPA had set up an appropriate framework for monitoring and compliance.
``A new division was established to carry out this task and report to the management every quarter.
``This task is handled by a committee comprising departments that have responsibilities on the issue of obligations of the parties,’’ Abdullahi said.
He said that the task of monitoring and compliance was key to NPA because it was the vehicle that would enable the realisation of the added value of private operators.
Abdullahi said that NPA was a direct beneficiary in the partnership with the concessionaires, adding that it also represented other institutional obligations as demanded by the concession agreement.
He, however, said the eight years of port concession had been full of excitement and challenges.
Abdullahi said the excitement had also saddled the organisation with the responsibility of managing expectations of the concessionaires.
Also speaking, Sen. Olugbenga Obadara, a member of the Senate Marine Committee, commended NPA's efforts for carrying out its obligations diligently.
``I have visited all the terminals in Lagos and I love the way the managing director of NPA handled the issue of bonded terminals with passion.
``The NPA's managing director also makes sure that the bonded terminals are able to keep their businesses moving,’’ he said.
Obadara said an enabling environment and legislative responsibility were important.
It would be recalled that 26 terminals were concessioned to private terminal operators in 2006.