By DAPO OLAWUNI
Haulage operators at Nigerian ports have agreed to slash their fairs by 30 percent as part of their contributions towards cushioning the effect of the Coronavirus on port economy.
This agreement was announced by the General Cordinator Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Association (COMTUA), Stephen Okafor at a meeting with the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Hassan Bello.
Mr. Okafor agreed, after being prevailed upon by the Shippers Council boss that the truck owners will lower the price to meet present realities.
He said the Shippers Council must however call an expanded meeting after the Covid-19 pandemic to draw up uniform freight rates for all truck owners.
Speaking he said “On pricing, I agree, there are several times we have meeting on freight rate standardisation and Shippers council came up with rate but they were not enforced. We have so many unions in the industry so I think we need to call a larger meeting to come up with a uniform freight rate”
“Also, we are not against coming down on the pricing and I think I agree that is part of our own contribution,”
The Shippers Council boss, Barr. Hassan Bello said the truck owners must sacrifice and contribute to the sustainability of the nation’s economy during the COVID 19 crisis.
According to him, the nation doesn’t need astronomical or unrealistic freight rate as the ports need to be decongested to forestall congestion of the seaports.
Bello said reason for the reduction in the cost is a form of sacrifice from the truck owners saying the agency will further engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on reduction of their charges.
“We want you to look at the cost because everyone is making a sacrifice, the terminal operators, shipping companies have made sacrifice and we are looking at NPA and NIMASA so that they will reduce their cost during this time as their contributions to the Nigerian economy. Please don’t allow Nigeria economy to be at stand still and after the Covid-19 we don’t want it to be written that it is owners of trucks that let the nation down.”
“We are stakeholder sensitive, we appeal to your patriotic sentiment to keep people in employment, operate at the port and let’s clear the cargoes. Right now, there are vessels lining up to come into the port to discharge but there is no space so, I know the usual strategy is taking empties and bring laden but we need to look at the need of the country and we need to make sacrifice. ”
“So, I appeal to you to look at the cost because we don’t need astronomical or unrealistic cost and these trucks must have easier access to come in and out in a very organised manner and give them access to take already available cargoes.”
Bello further stated that since the council and NPA have both secured storage and rent-free period for importers, the haulage operators should also ensure movement of the cargoes out of the port.
“We cannot over emphasize the important of hauliers to the economy especially now that we are having to face this pandemic. What we want is for the haulier to ensure port operation is done.
“Shippers Council have secured demurrage free period during the lockdown and NPA has also secured 21 days rent-free period from the terminal and this combination has given us relief and advantage to take as much as possible cargoes out of the port.
“But there are limitations in truck and that is why am appealing to you to help us find solution because I have been going through the terminal almost every day and the rate of occupancy is getting to 90 percent that there is no space for cargoes at the terminal anymore and this is because trucks are not coming to evacuate cargoes”
“Let us use this opportunity – rent and demurrage free period- and since the road is free there is no better time to deploy trucks and also try as much as you can, to galvanise your business plans and effort to ensure cargoes are brought out of the port” he said