President, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup
The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria STOAN, umbrella body for all private concessionaires operating in the country’s seaports and allied facilities has said that Nigeria’s economy saves a minimum of $100million annually as a result of efficiency and other benefits brought about by the port concession exercise.
Recall that Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo had between 2003-2006 embarked on a port reform programme, which stripped the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, of its cargo handling functions and ceded same to private terminal operators as concessionaires, while NPA became the technical regulator under the new landlord port model.
President of STOAN, Dr. Vicky Haastrup, who spoke at the 34th anniversary celebration of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria MARAN held at the weekend, with the theme: “16 Years of Port Concession: The Pains and the Gains”, said the exercise was a huge success and has brought tremendous improvements to the country’s port operational systems.
Represented by the CEO, Ships and Ports Communication Limited and a former president of the association, Dr. Bolaji Akinola, Haastrup noted that Nigeria’s economy saves a minimum of $100million annually, which translates to a savings of over $1.6trillion in the last 16 years when the private terminal operators came on stream.
“Nigeria’s port concession programme has been a huge success as stated in this evening’s presentation. The port concession programme has reduced the waiting time of vessels coming into our ports from an average of 45 days before 2006 to less than three days at present. It has helped in eliminating the notorious congestion surcharge hitherto imposed on the ports by major shipping lines under the aegis of the Europe-West Africa Trade Agreement EWATA.
“The elimination of the port congestion surcharge resulted in saving Nigeria’s trading community about USD100 million per annum. If you multiply that by the 16 years of port concession, that amounts to a savings of more than $1.6 billion to date”, she argued.
She also listed several other benefits of port concession, which include but not limited to the injection of private capital into port development; which has helped to free up government resources for other developmental purposes, elimination of port congestion and modernisation of the country’s seaports.
Others include improved availability of cargo handling equipment; competition among terminal operators, improved welfare and training of port workers and the institution of a condition of service for dockworkers.
She argued that prior to port concession exercise, dockworkers were casualised; as they did not have employers and did not have condition of service, an ugly narrative has since changed with the introduction of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which created a condition of service for them and also created room for review of their remuneration every two years.
Haastrup, who doubles as Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium also said: “Our port concession regime has been studied and duplicated by many other African countries. One of the pains of port concession, however, was the retrenchment of some workers of NPA in 2006. Unfortunately, the deed is done and no one can reverse the hands of the clock. However, I kindly appeal to the relevant authorities to ensure that the affected workers are duly compensated for the loss of their jobs. All their entitlements should be duly paid to them. It is the fair thing to do.
“Without a doubt, our economy has benefitted immensely from port concession. The drawbacks at the port are as a result of the cumbersome cargo clearing process, high rate of physical examination of cargo by the Nigeria Customs Service, overdependence on roads for cargo delivery as well as bad roads leading into and out of the ports. I believe that once these challenges are addressed by the government, Nigerians will reap more benefits from port concession. “
She thanked MARAN for providing the platform for the review of the exercise after 16 years, which would give room for improvement and for retaining its leadership role in the industry as the foremost maritime media association.
In a goodwill message to the association, Dr. Akinola congratulated the leadership and entire members of the association for keeping the flag flying and assured of the support not only of Mrs. Haastrup but also the entire members of STOAN.
He said: “On behalf of the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria STOAN, Princess (Dr) Vicky Haastrup, we congratulate the leadership and members of MARAN on the occasion of the association’s 34th anniversary celebration.
“As a media friendly maritime executive, Princess Haastrup desired to be here in person but she couldn’t because she just returned to the country last night and she understandably needs to rest after many hours of flight.
“Princess Haastrup and STOAN are always proud to associate with the maritime media who, in their own rights, are important component of the maritime industry. One cannot but note with pride that MARAN, as the foremost maritime media association in Nigeria, has come of age. The association and its members have, over the years, discharged themselves equitably in upholding the constitutional right of the people to know, and in setting agenda for the industry.
“As a former President of MARAN, I feel happy and proud to be amongst friends and colleagues again. My presence at this event is a sort of homecoming for me. I remember with nostalgia our struggles together and the efforts we made to empower members of the association during my tenure from 2011 to 2014. I am particularly happy to note that the spirit of camaraderie that MARAN is known for has remained intact. Princess Vicky Haastrup asked me to convey her goodwill and wish you a happy anniversary celebration”.