The position of issues addressed on mid-stream discharge, illegal berthing of vessels

The interactive session between port concessionaires, private jetty operators and the Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amechi on Feb. 22, 2016 addressed a number of key issues, and the one concerning the mid-stream discharge and illegal berthing of vessels attracted greater interest and attention.

The minister was firm on both issues as he clarified his resolve to act according to provisions of the law saying, “I will stick to the law” that guides the operations of both concessionaires and private jetty operators.

“All private jetties must obey the law. We will set up an enforcement committee. Anybody who breaks the law loses the authority to operate as a private jetty.  As Nigerians we must learn to respect agreements. This is a government of change,’’ he said.

Addressing officials of a private jetty operator, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) who had complained that the agreements were cancelled by former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar’adua, Amechi said his ministry was aware of the existence of the agreements.

According to him, until the laws were changed, operators should work within the laws approved for their operations.

Amechi who also said that ``whatever is in the concession agreement should be obeyed,’’ wondered why some private jetty operators were encroaching into the activities that was meant for concessioned port operators, which included receiving ocean-going vessels directly at their terminals when such action was against the law.

The minister said that he had observed that there was ``a cacophony of voices’’ among terminal operators with each operator struggling to protect its business territory and operating like a king.

He said such situation would not continue because the Federal Government needed money to run affairs of state.

Reacting to claims by some private jetty operators that there were no agreements or laws that established oil and gas free zone and designated terminals to handle only oil and gas terminals, the minister said his ministry was aware of such agreements.

Since there was no common understanding that such laws and special terminals existed, the minister called for submission of relevant documents from Intels Nigeria Limited, Ladol, NPA and Shippers Council supporting their claims.

He said that such documents would be submitted to the Legal Department of the Ministry of Transport before it would be forwarded to President Muhammed Buhari for a final decision to be taken on the issues.

``I will have no opinion on what will be sent to the President’’, he said.
Amechi complained about the low level of revenue accruing to the Federal Government from the maritime sector saying that the development called for the need to move the sector forward.

He said that it has been decided that transactions in the sector will be done in US Dollars, adding that the era of granting waivers was over.

 Amechi observed that since the ports were concessioned, there had not been much development in the growth and development of terminals, saying that the situation has made it necessary for him to meet with private jetty operators in March, 2016 to discuss the way forward.

He said that since his ministry would contribute 70 per cent of 2016 budget, a lot had to change in the maritime sector for such feat to be achieved.

Amechi also announced plans to cancel pilotage based on the information he had received and that such action would not be taken if ``there is a superior argument.’’