The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has said that the efficiency and other benefits brought about by the port concession exercise saves Nigeria’s economy over $1.6 billion in the last 16 years, which translates to a minimum of $100 million annually.
Recall that Federal Government embarked on a port reform programme between 2003-2006, which brought about port reforms in the nation’s maritime sector across the country.
Speaking at the 34th anniversary celebration of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos, with the theme: “16 Years of Port Concession: The Pains and the Gains,” the President of STOAN, Dr. Vicky Haastrup, said the the exercise has brought a huge success and tremendous improvements to the nation’s port operational systems.
According to her, that Nigeria’s economy saves a minimum of $100million annually, which translates to a savings of over $1.6 billion in the last 16 years when the private terminal operators came on stream.
The STOAN President who was represented by the Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communication Limited, Dr. Bolaji Akinola, Haastrup hinted that the port concession programme has reduced the waiting time of vessels coming into the nation’s ports from an average of 45 days before 2006 to less than three days at present.
She said that the port concession has also helped in eliminating the notorious congestion surcharge hitherto imposed on the ports by major shipping lines under the umbrella of the Europe-West Africa Trade Agreement (EWATA).
“The elimination of the port congestion surcharge resulted in saving Nigeria’s trading community about $100 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 said.
“There are 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 pointed out.
However, she explained 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.
“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.