Princess Vicky Haastrup, Chairman of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has stated that the Federal Government’s port concession program has saved the country approximately US$8.5 billion (N3.91 trillion) that was previously paid to foreign shipping lines as a congestion surcharge.
STOAN Chairman said in a statement issued over the weekend that members of the association, who are concessionaires, are ready to inject more funds into the port once pending concession agreements are renewed.
Haastrup made the remarks while speaking to journalists following a courtesy visit from APM Terminals Nigeria’s new Country Managing Director, Frederik Klinke.
She stated that, in addition to huge economic savings, terminal operators had already made significant investments totaling billions of dollars at the country’s six major seaports.
“Nigeria’s port concession program has been a monumental success. Many African countries send representatives here to understudy our port concession regime and how we were able to substantially increase investment and efficiency within a very short period. It shows the can-do spirit of Nigerians.
“The port concession program 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 our ports by major shipping lines under the aegis of the Europe-West Africa Trade Agreement EWATA.
“The elimination of the port congestion surcharge has resulted in saving Nigeria’s trading community over US$500 million per annum. If you multiply that by the 17 years of port concession, that amounts to a savings of US$8.5 billion to date. In naira terms, that is a savings of more than N3.9 trillion to the Nigerian economy,” she said.
According to the STOAN Chairman, the port concession has also resulted in the injection of private capital into port development, which has freed up government resources for other developmental purposes, eliminated port congestion, and resulted in the modernization of the country’s seaports.
Other advantages of port concession, she claims, include increased cargo handling equipment availability, increased competition among terminal operators, improved port worker welfare and training, and the establishment of a dockworker condition of service.
Dockworkers were treated as casual workers prior to the port concession regime, according to Haastrup, with no employers or working conditions.
“This narrative has since changed with the introduction of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) through which we have created a condition of service for them and also created room for a review of their remuneration every two years,” she said.
Haastrup urged the Federal Government to speed up the process of port concession renewals to enable terminal operators to inject fresh funds into the port to further boost the competitiveness of Nigerian ports.
“We are competing with other seaports in the sub-region so we cannot afford to stop investing. I believe that once the new port concession agreements are signed, terminal operators will readily inject more funds into the system to enhance the competitiveness of our ports. The more we inject private capital into the port, the more we’ll attract more business and create more jobs for Nigerians,” she said.