The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on Tuesday urged the National Shippers Association of Nigeria (NASAN) to speak with one voice as part of measures to boost its bargaining power nationally and internationally.
The Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, gave the advice at the election and inauguration of Executive Officers of NASAN in Lagos State.
Those that emerged after the election include Mr Innocent Akuvue as President General, Mrs Ijeoma Ezeasor as Secretary General, and Jamilu Umar as Vice President.
According to Bello, the national body of shippers association is established to increase their visibility in the shipping industry.
This is apart from enhancing the bargaining power of the associations to negotiate with their stakeholders, locally and internationally.
He said it was therefore important for them to elect officers who are genuine and regular importers and exporters to pilot the affairs of the association.
“They need to have strong voice, be organised, and that is why the council is here to bring them together, have the capacity to negotiate freight trade, shipping procedure, shipping instrument like bill of laden, incoterms – International Commercial Terms, the contract of affreightment, contract of carriage of goods.
“These are all responsibilities of the shippers and they must be organised so that they will be able to negotiate with the providers of shipping services.
“As shippers, they are aware of the numerous challenges facing the shipment of goods to and from Nigeria.
“The task ahead of NASAN is therefore enormous and will require courage and diligence to steer the ship of the association.
“However, I am gladdened that the cream of shippers here are men and women who are equal to the task, and the council’s part is to assist the association to ensure it achieves the purpose of which it was established,” he said.
Bello said that NASAN should ensure its members participate actively in the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to ensure that they benefit optimally in all relevant sectors of the trade.
“It is therefore important that they engage their members in sensitisation and enlightenment exercises to improve their knowledge capacity on shipping across borders, access to funds and other areas that will enhance the practice of import and export business,” he said.
Bello said that about 27 states were present for the event, as in every state there were shippers, but there was a need to have a national body.
He said that they were strict on who should be a shipper, as it should not be an all-comers affair.
“A shipper is someone who imports and exports on a regular basis, and that means that he will represent shipper’s council in international fora and also influence decisions of the federal government, Central Bank as far shipping is concerned,” he said.
“Also, for them to have a voice locally and internationally, they need to leverage on other institutions because they are an economic pressure group.
“They need to work on so many things like the 21 days cargo dwell time, cumbersome cargo clearance procedure; this is not good for them,” he said.
In his response, Akuvue vowed that he would work with maritime stakeholders in different ports.
He promised to try to streamline procedures and processes to make clearing, importing and exporting much more convenient.
Akuvue said that it would not be a case of the association working alone, as synergy with other people was necessary to work effectively.
He said that the association was created to cater for shippers, who are importers and exporters, and their goods.
“Our role is to create enough awareness for shippers to know what their likes are, for them to know how to process import and export documentation.
“There are a lot of issues, like port congestion. This because people have imported things that they are not meant to import, also because they did not follow the right processes.
“My work with my team is to create enough sensitisation and awareness on how people need to do business and to do it right.
“So, going forward, we are going to see a total new organisation, a set of shippers, within a short time,” he said.
Akuvue said that he was not in a hurry to delve into policies that affect shippers which needed to be changed.
He said that he needed to sit down and go through those policies, digest and understand them better, before coming out with anything.
On the issue of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s increase in exchange rate for customs duty, he said there was the need to understand why it was done, and he would not want to rush to criticise policies