No fewer than 5,400 vessels called at Nigerian ports last year, shippers in the country have said. The shippers, under their umbrella union, Shippers' Association Lagos State (SALS), said the vessels called at the nation's seaports through their efforts and co-operation.
President, SALS, Reverend Jonathan Nicole disclosed this in Lagos. However, Nicole said the shipper needed more support from the federal government in form of duty waivers. According to him, SALS would vigorously pursue exportation of agro-allied products and would encourage local manufacturing industries.
"Imports will continue to come but agriculture and exportation of agro-allied products would be promoted", he said.
He stated that members of SALS support the revamping and construction of cottage refineries and for the by-products to be exported, adding that clearance of cargo will be more scientific and cost effective. Nicole explained that industries should be able to overcome their heavy financial burden in clearing their raw materials.
He suggested that the 33 mineral resources of the nation should be properly used to improve revenue. According to the SALS president, in the early 70s, Nigeria's crude oil was sold at 13 dollars per barrel. Three dollars was saved while 10 dollars was used for budgetary purposes. He therefore suggested that 10 dollars be set aside for our reserves which should not be shared.
He called for the resuscitation of the Price Control Board, pointing out that emphasis must be on aggressive farming in all states, as well as the warehousing and preservation of agricultural products.
"Shippers' Association is available to act as an instrument of hope in all segments of the maritime community; encourage ownership of vessels by Nigerians; and reintroduce barges for evacuation of cargo. We need all to support the objective of the Shippers' Association to lay the foundation for a veritable and trusted rail track toward a total economic freedom.
"In this process, government will be approached to relax levies on exportable items; simplify cargo clearing process and make farming implements duty free. Shippers across the country and outside, especially in Cotonou will be reached and made to relocate to Nigeria", he added.
Giving an insight into the formation of SALS, Nicole said the association was formed over nine years ago to protect the interest of shippers, protect their investments and act as a pressure group.
His words: "The Nigerian Shippers' Council, after noticing the efforts of the shippers, made available a space on the 10th floor of the Shippers' Plaza to work together as one of its primary partners. We therefore solicit for a bigger, more spacious and befitting secretariat. It is our belief that in a few years' time, we will achieve an enviable status as problem of members would have been solved at least 90 per cent when the new port order comes into manifestation. Industries will overcome their heavy financial burden in clearing their raw materials".
He said shippers will hold conferences and workshops at least two times in a year until the Federation of Nigerian Shippers' Association (FONSA) is formed. The Chairman of Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Chief Kunle Folarin, commended the association for moving the nation's commerce and industry sector forward.
He said that the shippers had been the movers of the Nigerian economy, adding that without the ports, there would be no ship and without the shippers, there would be no cargo. He called for investment and co-operation as well as opportunities for the new economic agenda for the maritime sector of the economy.
Source: THISDAY NEWS NIGERIA