NPA moves to stabilise ports operations amid disruptions
Since the pronouncement by the president that the Nigerian Ports should remain operational, amid the coronavirus pandemic, all hands have been on deck to ensure a seamless import and export processes at the seaports.
Although, the cargo handling and clearance processes have recorded some setbacks due to difficulties in the movement of clearing agents, importers and dockworkers, and banks limited operations, among others.
In view of the prevailing scenario, NPA has directed that all terminal operators should suspend all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments (demurrage) for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020.
This directive was flagrantly resisted by the terminal operators who believed that the actions were uneconomical to their operations. But the ports watchdog immediately intervened, saying it would grant credit notes commensurate to the rental reliefs granted by the terminal operators to importers.
The General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, NPA, Jatto Adams, explained that the gesture was in recognition of the pressure that COVID-19 pandemic imposed on businesses and the responsibility imposed on the Authority to relieve this burden on its customers as well as attaining the objective of the Federal Government’s ease of doing business policy at this trying period.
He noted that the Authority recognised the financial implications of these policies on the terminal operators and would consider a shift in its operational charges to ameliorate the situation of stakeholders.
Adams also disclosed that NPA, as majority shareholders alongside other shareholders of the Agura Hotels, Abuja, have agreed to donate the 130-bed fully furnished hotel as isolation centre for COVID-19.
He explained that the donation was part of their social responsibility initiative aimed at supporting efforts of the Federal Government to contain the spread of the virus.
Going a step further, NPA in a memo revealed how it intends to pay to backport operators after the later must have granted 21 days waiver of storage charges to importers.
In a letter dated April 8, 2020, titled; “Re: Relief Measures To Port Users Due To Outbreak of Covid-19” NPA said it would grant credit notes commensurate to the rental reliefs granted by the terminal operators to importers within the 21-day free storage period.
In the letter signed by Ugo Madubuike, General Manager, Monitoring and Regulatory Services, for the Managing Director, NPA clarified that “the compensation will only cover cargoes situated in your terminal within the period under reference.
“The terminal must produce evidence of delivery records indicating waiver of rent for the period in reference. The compensation shall only cover storable cargoes within respective terminals. The compensation shall only cover charges approved by the Authority and published by the terminal. Any charge outside these will not be accommodated,” the port authority stated, among others.
NPA boss, Hadiza Bala Usman, also disclosed that the Agency is collating the challenges confronting terminal operators due to the virus outbreak.
Bala Usman, who visited terminals to get first-hand information on the impact of the lockdown on port operations, pledged to forward findings to the appropriate agencies for proper actions.
Speaking at the Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, the NPA boss explained that the government was committed to having smooth operations at the port during this period in other to keep the economy running.
She said: “I want to assure you that we will continue to support the operations of SIFAX Group and other port operators around the country. Any assistance required from the agency should be put into writing and forwarded to my office, this is because I read all letters addressed to me and I will make sure that proper action is taken on the requests.”
Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group, Adekunle Abdulrazak Oyinloye noted that the operations at the terminal have been faced with daunting challenges since the lockdown.
He said: “We have encountered a lot of challenges including the harassment and detention of our staff by security agencies despite presenting their ID cards and the cover letter from NPA and bank closure at the ports, among others. We will need your assistance to address these obstacles to our operations.
“Also, in order to avoid congestion at the ports, we have stemmed some of our containers to our off-dock facilities.”
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