Amaechi tasks Shippers’ Councils on issues affecting trade facilitation

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The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday, urged African Shippers’ Councils to focus on the implementation of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFC), and issues relating to trade.

Amaechi made the call during the two-day Sub-Regional Workshop and Joint Standing Committee meeting with the theme: “Port Concession in West and Central Africa: Impact on Economies of Member States”, held in Abuja.

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), hosted the regional workshop in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

The workshop is organised by the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

According to him, the workshop will also support the sea-link project, which is key to the effective realisation of the sub-region’s maritime goal.

The minister said the ports were concessioned in 2006, which had increased cargo output, reducing vessel turn-around time, cargo dwell time and other ports metrics, adding that some countries in the sub-region had carried out similar reforms.

“I, therefore, call on the participants to thoroughly and expeditiously look into these matters with a view of advising governments of the member states on appropriate regulation and policy measures to realise these goals.

“On our ports, the Federal Government of Nigeria has made remarkable progress in the development of trade support infrastructures such as railways, roads and other facilities.

“We are establishing Inland Dry Ports (IDPs) and Truck Transit Parks (TTPs) in several locations across the country to bring shipping closer to service users in the hinterlands.

“President Muhammadu Buhari, in January 2018, commissioned the Kaduna IDP as port of origin and destination.

“The port is operational and Shippers in the North-West geopolitical zone are taking advantage for their shipping needs,” Amaechi said.

He said that the Kaduna dry port was also targeted at providing transit goods through Nigerian seaports.

The minister said that the African Shippers’ Council regional meeting would provide the opportunity to re-appraise and proffer workable solutions on matters relating to freight rates.

He added that the meeting would look into port charges, transport costs and other issues affecting transportation of cargo in the region.

Amaechi noted that huge freight rates, arbitrary imposition of surcharges remain key issues, amounting to trade barriers hindering the development of international trade in West and Central Africa.

He urged participants to collaborate in proffering lasting solutions toward tackling these arbitrary and unjustifiable costs.

The minister said that the meeting should consider issues arising from the implementation of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Container Weighing Regime on Verified Gross Mass (VGM).

He said the meeting should be able to tackle issues bothering on cargo destined for landlocked countries, which had the capacity to boost trade and realise seamless efficient trade in the sub-region.

The Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Alhaji Mai Buni, said the meeting would create room for effective and efficient trade and transportation for sustainable economic development in the sub-region.

Buni said that trade facilitation emerging as an important subject in the WTO and TFA came to force on Feb. 22, 2017.

He said that full implementation of TFA would reduce trade costs by much as 14.3 per cent: boosts global trade by up to $1.0 trillion annually with the biggest gains accruing to the poorest countries.

Buni said that the development of port and hinterland connectivity infrastructure were critical to the economic development of any country; be it coastal or landlocked.

According to him, in as much as the sub-region engage in global trade, it is Imperative that all necessary facilities and processes be systematically provided to enhance the supply chain and seamless operations to improve efficiency and competitiveness of the sub-regions trade.

In his contribution, the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said that the non-implementation of National Single Widow (NSW) had affected the port’s efficiency.

Bello said that NSW was a trade electronic facilitation platform which would bring all port users and service providers together.

“NSW will eliminate inefficiencies, simplify documentation, provide transparency, short dwell time of cargo, cargo tracking note.

“These are all trade facilitation mechanisms which the Federal Ministry of Transportation is pursuing.

“Already there is a committee set up by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to look at the National Single Window, which consists of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and of which NSC is a member.

“It is going through procurement processes and it is hoped that NSW processing would be concluded very soon. Sometime, the cost could be a result of inefficiency.

“Full implementation of Single Window and Cargo Tracking Note will eliminate inefficiency in the port operations,” Bello said.

He said that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council was about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with shipping companies which would reduce the cost of doing business by 35 per cent.