By DAPO OLAWUNI
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have accused the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) of poor regulation of barge operations in Nigeria, even as freight forwarders have lamented outrageous charges by barge operators.
This is coming on the heels of last week last weeks’ order issued by Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has telling NPA to stop issuing operational licenses to badge operators, even as the minister has ban badge operations along the marina coast line in Lagos.
Amaechi was accompanied by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on an unscheduled visit to the marina to witness its degradation.
With the order, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will also revoke barge approvals granted some companies operating in the state.
Stakeholders in their reaction with DAILY TREND NEWS accused NPA of doing a poor job in terms of barge regulations, saying that barge operators are given a field day to charge exorbitant prices without any form of regulation.
One of the stakeholders, Mr Jonathan Owoh however argued that this was a wrong time for the minister to put a stop to barge operations, saying that the order would lead to an increase in congestion inside the port.
According to him, “Stopping barges from operating would amount to increase in congestion at the port, the barge operators were operating based on what they saw on ground, and since that time, there has been a form of relief, so, if their licenses are stopped now, that means the government is aggravating the whole thing”
“What i am suggesting to the government is to even increase the number of barges we have working at the port now so that the containers inside the port would be decongested to other areas to facilitate movement in the port, without this evacuation, things at the port would be aggravated”
“Stopping barge operations is not the best option, rather government should find a way to modernise it to ensure they work smoothly”
“The cost of barging containers is an additional burden to both agents and importers, their charges are very expensive, they are not being regulated, and the stakeholders are not part of the decision making process as far as barges are concerned, so they are doing whatever they like, whatever they give us is what we take, because we don’t know what to do, we are at their mercy”
“The NPA is the one issuing licenses to barge operators, but they suppose to call in the stakeholders to make an input, especially in the billing” he said
Jonathan Owoh, a freight forwarder lamented the high cost of transporting cargoes from the port, especially from Tin Can Island Port.
He said that “Transporting a container from Tin Can Port to Kirikiri phase 2 at Brawal Terminal (also within Apapa) is N150,000, you would pay terminal charges at the port, as well as the destination terminal which is Brawal”
“So, on a container you suppose to pay N185,000 overall as terminal charges, you end up paying more than N500,000. The shipping companies charges is also there, N22,000 per day”
Also speaking with our correspondent, another stakeholder, Chief Shedrack Chukwuemeka described barge operations as a necessary evil at Nigerian ports.
According to him, freight forwarders are paying through their nose to get their cargoes to destination point because of lack of price regulation by NPA.
He however kicked against suspension of barge operations licenses at this time, saying that government should ensure speedy completion of the port access road construction before such actions can be taken.
“For now, stopping barges from operating cannot help issues inside the port, maybe after now when the roads must have been completed and we have gotten the shipping companies and terminals on what to do, then the issue of barges can be stopped because we are paying more, but for now, it is the only thing we can do to decongest the port” Shedrack stated.