The 3rd Edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference may have come and gone, but the echoes of voices raised at the occasion keep resonating. One of such echoes is the call by the Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) Princess Dr Vicky Haastrup who strongly stressed the need for objectivity and fairness in proffering solutions to the rising cost of port operation in the country.
Dr Haastrup who doubles as the Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium expressed her disappointment in the fact that many of the participants and panelists were actually heaping unnecessary blames on the terminal operators.
According to her, “It is very easy for anyone to heap all the blames on terminal operators, even when the paper presented is very fair to all sides; very encompassing and very robust”, Princess Vicky Haastrup indicated, stressing that if Nigerians took a very serious study of the paper delivered by the Ports Consultative Council (PCC) Chairman, Otunba Kunle Folarin, the solution to the rising cost of the port operations would be found.
Stressing that the problem did not start with Buhari administration, the Princess urged Stakeholders to look beyond today and they would easily realize that the problems actually started with the past leaderships, all because there was no altruistic sincerity on the part of leadership at inception. She also lamented the great loss the terminal operators were currently recording as a result of the Apapa- Tin Can Island Port Gridlock
Specifically, she called attention to the fact that once upon a time, the terminal operators transacted business and made remittances to Government on the basis of Dollar at N125; and asked: “what is it today? It is N360!
“By implication, our cost of operation has increased by about 100 percent!
“Salary is going up! Infrastructure to put things in place cost money! Who thinks about this?
“And like Otunba called our attention to it: What was Customs duty in 2006 on commodities and cargo that was being imported to Nigeria; and what is it now? Was the Customs duty or charges being paid now, the same thing as what was paid then, especially as of 2006? Why then are we shouting terminal operators, terminal operators?” the STOAN Boss asked.
“The NIMASA charges, is it the same today, as compared to what they were charging in 2006? Is it the same thing they are still charging as of today? Who regulates them? But it is not even only NIMASA! Shippers Council is also there!
“It is on record that what NIMASA charges is one of the highest in the world! Am I not right?” the Princess asked, stressing the need for fairness because the terminal operators had truly and consistently been denied fair hearing, on the issue of fair pricing of port operations; even though the terminal operators have merely been responding to unfolding realities in the day-to-day business development, trying to survive, while strenuously complying with every demand of the government and its agencies!
She insisted that while the terminal operators must look inward and shift ground, the gesture must be shared by all stakeholders, because the terminal operators are just a minute fraction of the service delivery chains!