By DAPO OLAWUNI
In order to further ameliorate the gridlock at the ports, there are indications that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has issued fresh rounds of operational licenses to barge operators to evacuate cargoes from Nigerian ports.
President of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) Mr Kelikume Edeme stated this in an exclusive chat with DAILY TREND NEWS at the weekend.
Edeme said that this is in addition to the 36 members already operating under the association. He assured that the association would work with the NPA in order to cub proliferation of illegal operators in the business.
The BOAN President however lamented that the greatest challenge confronting barge operators is the lack of containers holding bays.
He also lamented that barges spend at least four days at the terminal in their quest to evacuate containers at port terminals, adding that this has led to additional operational costs.
Speaking, he said “Proliferation is a serious issue that we are all working on, the NPA has just released a new round of licenses about two weeks ago, based on these new licenses, we are going to start engaging again and we are going to work with the regulator to address these issues”
“The challenges are basically the waiting time at the terminals, the biggest challenge the maritime industry is facing today is empty containers, the shipping lines are taking advantage of the situation, the importers and transporters are being made to pay heavily, there are no facilities where you can drop empty containers after offloading the imports, this is a big problem”
“The ports are not receiving empty containers, you offload the cargoes but there is nowhere to drop the empty containers and yet they charge you demurage on these empty containers”
“For barge operators, sometimes you move your barge to the terminals and you can spend 4days, and you are paying daily cost for these equipment that you hired or owned, who pays for the downtime? he queried
DAILY TREND NEWS recalls that the Nigerian Shippers Council had recently directed maritime truck operators to slash haulage prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The truckers however refused to obey the directive because barge operators were not compelled to also reduce their charges.
Speaking on the recent controversy, Mr Edeme said prices of hiring a barge is dependent on market forces.
“It is a market driven thing, if the price for barge is high, people will go and use the truck, right now the price of barges is the same across board, there is nobody that would charge anything higher, there might come a time when prices would increase, the barge and the trucks would be increased, but for now, everything is low”
“Shippers Council cannot ask truck owners to give concessions due to COVID-19, the reason that the rates of trucks have come down right now is because there is not enough cargo to go around, it is about competition, people are now reducing their rates, the moment the port begins to function very well and people are coming out to pick their cargo, the rate would gradually begin to increase”
“Dont forget the fact that these trucks are spending a lot of money to get their way into the port, and for those that want to join the queue, they spend 3 to 5 days, so, who pays for that down time” he said
The BOAN president have however confirmed that evacuation of overtime cargoes has commenced at Nigerian ports, adding that the process is cureently going smoothly.
“The evacuation of cargoes from the port is going smoothly, the overtime cargoes at APMT has been computed, the one at PTML has also been done, currently we are working on the overtime cargoes at Ports and Cargo Terminal” he said