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Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund: Politicians want to me to favour them —NIMASA boss

The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),
Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, has said that politicians have been mounting pressure on his management to favour them in the planned disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).

Disclosing this recently in Lagos, the NIMASA boss said despite the pressure, he has remained resolute because he does not want to be remembered as one who disbursed monies meant for expanding the shipping base of the country to people outside the profession as was the case with the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF).

According to him, “Politicians see the fund as a bonus and I have resisted all manner of pressure to disburse the funds so far”, Mr Akpobolokemi said. He was trying to explain the reason for delay in disbursing it.

He pledged to personally get involved in the process of disbursement to ensure that the money does not get into the hands of opportunists, insisting that ‘’Everybody is scrambling for the money but we are carefully scrutinizing all applications. I shall personally inspect the facilities and other logistics of all the intending beneficiaries to ensure that those who eventually get the loans use them for the purpose they are meant.”

He stated further that the Indigenous Shipowners Association (ISAN) in a recent meeting with
NIMASA, said the disbursement was not their major problem but the absence of the cargoes for them to left.

He noted that therefore, NIMASA’s management was focusing on efforts to make jobs
available for local shipowners and further disclosed that the decision on the disbursement of the funds would not be left to the four commercial banks.

‘’What happens to the loans if any of the banks go under? NIMASA will then be left alone to carry the loss in the event that the beneficiaries are not properly screened to ascertain the genuineness of their purpose” he said.

According to him, ISAN’s pre-occupation is how to secure regular jobs and not to get a loan they may not be able to pay back due to lack of cargoes.

Over $100million (N15.3billoin) has so far accrued to the fund since the Cabotage regime became operational in 2004. The fund is the derivative of the three per
cent of the contract sum made by cabotage vessels and payable to NIMASA.

Four banks, namely Diamond bank, Skye Bank, Fidelity Bank and Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) were appointed as the primary lending institutions to administer the funds while over 100 intending beneficiaries have applied for the funds.

NPA AND NRC synergise to develop port rail system.

The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has assured that there is a good partnership between the Authority and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) which is geared towards developing the rail system within the ports in order to reduce container-carrying trucks on the roads, according to a press release by NPA.

Speaking during the visit of a 2 man United Kingdom Mass Transport Sector Delegation to the Headquarters of the Authority, the Managing Director Omar Suleiman who was represented by Engineer Tolulope Talabi asserted that NPA is working in line with its 25 years development master plan, meant to dove tail into the Federal Government desire of becoming one of the 20 leading economy of the world by the year 2020.

The Managing Director further added that the Federal Government is currently making efforts to reducing the number of agencies within the port system to an acceptable level.

Earlier in his statement, the Mr. Steve Cameron informed NPA Management that the aims of the mission are to provide a comprehensive review of the sectors in Nigeria and to compile this in a report for the U.K. Mass Transport Sector.

He also wanted to know the challenges and prospects of the Nigerian concession which he described as a very unique example. He further said that U.K. being a knowledge based economy is ready to assist Nigeria in her areas of need and will recommend business opportunities to British business men for consideration.

He advised the Government to take a critical look at the multiplicity of agencies in the port with a view to resolving their existence.

Mr. Cameron was accompanied by Mark Wandles, a Legal practitioner with Walson Forla and Williams and Co. in U.K.

Ships Spend 6 Days Average in Nigerian Ports – NPA.

The Nigerian Ports Authority has reported that latest indicators show that the average turnaround time of vessels for all ports in the country as at August 2011 was 6.1 days compared to 6.6 days in August 2010.

In its monthly performance report sent to DDH as a press release for August 2011, the port system witnessed increased gross tonnage of vessels as against the same period in 2010.

Available statistics show the total gross tonnage of the ocean going vessels stood at 10,026,813 which showed a 6.2% increase over the same period of August 2010 figure of 9,437,966 while the gross tonnage of the coastal vessels which called at Nigerian ports was 652,437 a rise of 32.3% over the August 2010 figure of 493,053.

Over 365 Government Containers Abandoned At The Ports
…including250 containers of PHCN equipment.

At a time when the nation is lamenting inefficient power supply, over 365 container loads of goods belonging to government ministries and parastatals have been abandoned at the ports. About 250 container loads of vital equipment belonging to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are also involved.

A source close to the management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) told DDH that some of the containers have been at the ports since 2006.

DDH gathered that about 140 of such containers belonging to PHCN were abandoned at
the Ports and Cargo Terminal in Tin Can while the remaining 110 containers had been moved to Ikorodu Custom’s port to rot away as overtime cargo, having stayed for more than 3years without anybody coming for them.

Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources which follows closely behind PHCN similarly abandoned 59 containers loads of items meant for government projects, while the
Central Bank of Nigeria CBN and Ministry of Power and Steel are next with 25 and 15 containers respectively.

Others are Ministry of Works – 10 Containers, Delta Steel Mills – 6 Containers, as well as Governments of Lagos, Rivers, Ondo and Delta States.

Unconfirmed reports said that the PHCN leadership which imported the equipment to boost power generation might have later changed their mind in favour of abandoning the items in the belief that bringing them on board could jeopardize a new desire to order for similar items and meet new motive.

Efforts to confirm the above from the Public Relations Officer of the Customs, Wale Adeniyi, was unsuccessful. When DDH called, he said he was in a meeting and promised to call back but never did.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Dikko Inde Abdullahi has warned against further abandonment of government project laden containers in the port by government agencies stressing that not only had such recklessness been affecting legitimate Customs laws as far
as disposal of abandoned goods by Customs were concerned, but that such abandonment was also affecting the ability of the port’s terminal to productively hold genuine import and thereby causing inflation.

He gave the warning at the weekend during an official visit to the Ikorodu Customs Port to inspect 28 containers belonging to the PHCN abandoned at the Lighter Terminal. The Terminal serves as the Government Warehouse for safe keeping of overtime containers transferred from the various Lagos Ports.

“Some of these containers have been transferred to this terminal since 2006. The last sets of containers were brought here during the port decongestion exercise in 2009. How can we rationalize spending tax payers’ money to import these containers, only to abandon them”, he wondered.

The Comptroller-General disclosed that Customs has obliged PHCN request to clear the containers from the Overtime Cargo list, stating that 104 containers have been so cleared
from the terminal in the last three months.

“Enough is enough. We shall consider the act of abandoning Government containers as economic sabotage, and we shall treat the perpetrators as such. Henceforth, we shall take
definitive action against the contractors and the Agencies they represent. We can no longer fold our arms and watch our collective resources rot away in abandoned containers, while the projects for which they were imported inevitably fail”, he stated further.

NPA Supports Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Hiv/Aids Prevention

2nd from right, Executive Director Marine and Operations Aina Egharevba, with the delegation from ALTTFP.

The Management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has assured the officials of the Abidjan – Lagos Corridor for Trade and Transport Facilitation Project (ALTTFP) of its preparedness to promote the awareness, and fight the scourge of Hiv/Aids in the West African Sub-region.

Speaking at the NPA headquarters in Lagos yesterday, the Managing Director Omar Suleiman who was represented by the Executive Director Marine and Operations Aina Egharevba asserted that management would give all necessary support to the committee established to sensitise and increase the awareness about the prevention of HIV/Aids within and around the port communities in Lagos and other port locations.

The Executive Director added that the truckers at the ports are amongst the most exposed to the pandemic, so the Nigerian Ports Authority management is willing to support the fight against the scourge, moreso when two members of the Executive Management of the Authority are part of the committee.

Furthermore, Egharevba added that NPA would also increase the awareness on the dangers of the disease amongst it staff through the sensitization programmes of its already established team which she said would definitely impact on global programmes along the West African corridor.

Speaking earlier, the leader of the two man delegation from Abidjan-Lagos corridor for Trade and Transport Facilitation Project (ALTTFP), Mr. Edy, Kokouvi Anthony said the purpose of their visit was to increase the awareness on the need to fight Hiv/Aids and also to facilitate free movement of people and goods along the West African corridors.

Stating that truckers and traders spend lots of time along the corridor especially at the Krake –Seme Border which he said hampers the rapid growth of business along the sub-region.

Mr. Eddy added that the project is to be carried out at the ports in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin and Lagos Ports Complex in Nigeria; and that the huge populations around the West Coast corridor makes it vulnerable to easy transmission of the disease, a situation that calls for constant monitoring by all concerned.

The project which is aimed at preventing the spread of Hiv/Aids would be funded by the World Bank and supported by the ECOWAS and it would last for six years, having started in September 2010.

The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor organization he added, would work closely with the Medical Department of the NPA and the Lagos State Aids Control Agency (LASACA) to increase preventive activities.

Mr. Eddy urged the NPA management to move fast in other to achieve the deadline set by the World Bank and the ECOWAS in this regards.

Filippino Firm To Partner NPA In New Greenfield Port Development.

A Philippines-based firm, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTS) has indicated interest in the development of new ports in the country, even as the company has opened up discussion with the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

Disclosing this at the just concluded 9th Intermodel Exhibition and Conference which took place in Casablanca, Morocco, Mr Jens O Floe, Senior Vice President Africa of ICTS, said his company is interested in the Nigerian market because it is not just an emerging one but the biggest in the African continent.

Floe in a chat with DDH said that though they were involved in the Lekki port project, they have opened talks with the management of NPA to develop a brand new port that will help in further opening up the nation’s economy.

He noted that ICTS, which has 22 terminals around the world, is also interested in training of the needed professionals in the sector through technological transfer as well as entering into partnership with relevant government agencies in achieving growth in ports operations where ever ICTS operates.

The ICTS boss noted that Nigeria, with its stable polity and a growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will have its container market on the increase and explained that though the country seems to be getting it right in terms of the needed port infrastructure presently, there is need for futuristic planning 10 years ahead because the market would continue to grow if the present conditions continue.

He suggested deliberate efforts to move the ports from Apapa to the outskirts of the city to make room for development.

Floe who told DDH that he has been in the port business for about 20 years, pointed out that the purpose of the concession agreement between the Nigerian government and the private terminal operators in country has been defeated, arguing that part of the management team of one of the current private terminal operators in the country was close to their shipping arm and thus, has reduced competition.

However, he stressed the need for the improvement of power supply, the rail transport system and the road network in the country for her to become a hub for the sub-region.

It would be recalled that the management of the NPA has expressed interest in the development of a new deep sea ports in Akwa Ibom state for which the state government has already offered the portion of land to the Authority.

Reps drills Cotecna, others over operations at port

To ensure adherence to the operation of the Destination Inspection agreement entered into between the federal government and the three service providers, an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives recently drilled them on their operations at the ports.

The three companies, Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL), Globalscan Systems Limited, Societe-Generale du Surveillance (SGS) told the committee members that they had so far done well in view of the prevailing business environment in the country.

Chief executives officers of the three companies Tayo Rabiu, Managing Director of CDIL, Fred Udechukwu of GSL and Chief Executive Officer of SGS, Nigel Balchin, noted that despite some initial hiccups in the system, the nation’s international trade had been the better for it under the concession agreements.

The 12-man ad-hoc Committee chaired by Deputy House Leader, Rep Leo Okuweh Ogor, had invited the service providers to give accounts of their knowledge of the Single Window project as well as the contract performance of their respective organizations and their readiness to
hand over to the Nigeria Customs Service by January 2013.

Destination Inspection Service commenced in January 2006 under a Build- Own-Operate-and-Transfer (BOOT) arrangement for a period of seven years. With a broad-based scope of services, the Destination Inspection companies were to, amongst other things, deploy a Computerized Risk Management System (CRMS), provide a Data Base for Pricing, carry out Customs Valuation and Classification of goods, install scanners at designated ports of entries, carry out physical examination of goods in conjunction with Customs officers when necessary, as well training and capacity building of servicemen for the future management of the project.

In his own contribution, the Controller-General of Customs, Abdulahi Dikko, had announced that as part of the benefits of the scheme, the service had netted soaring Customs revenue being put at over half a trillion naira for the first half of the year.

Speaking earlier, Rabiu informed the gathering that his organization had successfully installed one 9.0 MeV Fixed Dual view scanner, and one 3.8 MeV Mobile scanner at Apapa port in Lagos.

The Cotecna boss also said that the company now has in place three scanners at the Tin-Can Island port namely, 9.0 Mev Fixed Dual View Scanner; 3.8 MeV Mobile Scanner in Ashaye Terminal; and a 3.8 Mev Mobile Scanner at the RORO Terminal of the port. The two fixed
scanners installed at Apapa and Tincan are of the best technology in the industry and the first to be commissioned in Sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

Similarly, the company has a 145-180 Hi-Scan Pallet Scanner each, at both the Abuja and Kano International Airports. On the land border areas, the scanner provisions include a 3.8 mev Mobile scanner at Jibiya with a fully completed office complex, while a similar project in Banki land
border is on course and would soon be commissioned.

Destination Inspection:
SGS To Train Transition Team For Nigeria Customs Service

Destination Inspection (DI) service provider, SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, will
in the new year, commence the training of a transition team constituted mainly by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officers as part of the smooth transfer of the company’s services under the Destination Inspection (DI) scheme, including the hi-tech cargo scanning machines to NCS by the end of 2012, in line with the contract signed with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Managing director of SGS Scanning Nigeria Limited, Mr. Nigel Balchin, stated this at the closing ceremony for the tenth set of customs officers trained by the DI service provider under the NCS Secondment Programme.

The ceremony was held on Friday 21 October 2011, at the SGS Price Verification & Classification Unit in Lagos.

Mr Balchin explained that since 2006 when the DI scheme was introduced, the company has been training NCS officers and officials of other government agencies involved in international trade.

“We will be concluding the on-the-job training programme this year and in the new
year we will focus on the transition team selected from the best among those already trained, including those trained on the operation and maintenance of the cargo scanning machines”, he said.

The SGS boss admonished the officers to make good use of all they have learnt during the eight- week programme and enjoined them to be worthy NCS ambassadors.

Guest of Honour at the event and head of NCS Human Resources Department, deputy comptroller general of Customs (DCG), Garba Markarfi, represented by deputy comptroller O.I. Okoli, expressed satisfaction with the quality and delivery of the training by the DI service

“From what I have seen, I am very proud of you all. I have no doubt that you have been well trained by SGS, which will help you while in the service and even when you have left the service. On behalf of my amiable Comptroller General of Customs who, as you all know, is very passionate on capacity building, I will like to say a big thank you to SGS. We are happy with what the company is doing and want this good relationship to continue”, she added.

Speaking on behalf of the group, chief superintendent of Customs, A.T. Abe, said
the training has been “an eye opener”.

“We thank management of Nigeria Customs Service for giving us this opportunity as well as SGS for imparting this knowledge. Some of us have been doing this job for twenty years or more; however we have never had this type of specialized training as some of us operate at the borders. I can proudly say we are now better customs officers.”, he said.

Also on behalf of her colleagues, superintendent of customs, I.E. Enwereama, expressed gratitude to SGS for being a wonderful host and exposing them to excellent training materials and facilities.

She later presented a branded wall clock to the company’s managing director, Mr Nigel
Balchin, on behalf of the trainees.

Twenty officers participated in the on-the-job training. Participants were acquainted with the requirements and process leading to the issuance of Risk Assessment Reports (RARs), a vital
document required by traders to clear their imports from the Nigerian ports and border posts. They were presented with certificates.

Nigerian Pirates Invades Coastal Waters Of Neigbouring Countries

Governments of neigbhouring West African countries have raised alarm over the invasion of their water ways by Nigerian pirates and sea robbers causing vessels to lose millions of dollars.

Disclosing this in Lagos recently, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Partick Akpobolokemi, said that some countries in the West-African sub-region have complained about the recent development.

Akpobolokemi said that NIMASA was currently talking with officials of these countries to find ways out of the present situation.

He said that the criminals currently terrorizing these countries were pirates chased out of Nigeria, and that most of the vessels being attacked carried Nigeria-bound cargoes and that these vessels had paid their dues and charges.

“This is the scenario, we chase away pirates from our coastal areas here, our territory, and they go Benin Republic. Some of the ships that are meant to come to Nigeria have paid all the necessary dues and charges meaning that Nigeria’s image is not only at stake, the country is also losing revenue,” he said.

He further explained that Nigeria is currently expected by the international shipping community to ensure that waters in the sub-region are free from the grip of pirates and safe for navigation.

The move by both Nigeria and the affected countries to checkmate the activities of these criminals has led to the constitution of a joint patrol team to monitor the waters on a sub-regional level.

Before the joint patrol team was inaugurated, there were 35 successful pirate attacks
in two months on the waters across the region.

The trend according to Akpobolokemi has changed as only one of such attacks was
recorded within a month.

“With the support of government, within one or two months, we can chase piracy away from territorial waters but there are certain processes that must be put in place which we are pleading with government to expedite so we can deploy the platforms in all the areas within our territorial waters” he added.

He however called on every stakeholder to join forces with NIMASA to put an end to the menace of piracy.

NIMASA Arrests 5 Vessels For Illegal Bunkering Activities.

NIMASA has arrested five vessels for illegal crude oil transfer and bunkering activities
off the coast of Lagos.

The tankers, ‘M.T Otakoy – 1 and M. T Mariny were arrested early this
month while the others, M/T Cape Verde , M T Selueshing, M.T Adamas were arrested about ten days ago.

Disclosing this to newsmen in Lagos, NIMASA’s Director-General, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi,
said that the vessels were involved in illegal ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil before they were apprehended and are currently being detained.

Akpobolokemi stated that the crew on board the vessels have also been arrested while
the vessels were taken to NIMASA’s guard command pending investigation.

He explained that before the vessels were arrested, their communication systems were
switched off, a development that got NIMASA officials suspicious.

The NIMASA boss noted that some Nigerian elite have been discovered to be involved in
high-level criminality with regards to illegal bunkering activities.

“They get crude oil from smaller vessels from Nigeria and transfer these stolen crude
to mother vessels. The foreigners cannot do it without the connivance from Nigerians. Besides the issue of illegal ship-to-ship transfer, there are other areas of off-shore high level stealing of petroleum products.

“We must stop all illegalities in our waters, that is a presidential order I just received and with the support of Government we clear our waters of criminals”

It would be recalled that NIMASA recently traced a vessel stolen from Nigeria to a shipyard in Ghana where it was waiting to be scrapped.

Revenue leakage:
NA, NNPC, PPMC To Ensure Customs Presence At Loading Point

The National Assembly has directed the management of Nigerian National Petroleum
Cooperation (NNPC) and Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC) to ensure that officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) are present at the loading and discharging of petroleum products coming into or leaving the country, to curb all revenue leakages.

DDH gathered that the directive may not be unconnected with government’s desire to block all known avenues of revenue leakages, as well as laxity on the law guiding NNPC and PPMC import and export of petroleum products.

The directive, DDH gathered, is part of measures by government to determine the actual quantity of crude oil being lifted and revenues accruing there from.

To this end, government is expected to compel Customs management to ensure that customs officers are trained in the techniques of physical attendance either at the Petroleum
Training Institute or DPR so as to ensure their effective participation at the loading terminals in line with extant laws; while NNPC would be prevailed upon to perfect all outstanding Single Good Declaration form as required by law.

A source at the National Assembly told DDH that, “We are also looking at the
possibility of mandating EFCC to recover the sum of 45.97 billion owed by the NNPC to the Nigerian Customs as there should be no basis for NNPC’s inability to pay the amount which is tax on petroleum products imported into the country in line with government policy at
that time.

“In the mean time we have recommended that government should make special release of funds to the NCS to resuscitate its marine commands. We strongly believe that without a functional and effective marine command, there is no way the Customs will perform its statutory functions of fighting smuggling on our waters, illegal bunkering and the all important functions of close physical monitoring of crude oil export at the oil loading terminal, to determine the actual quantity of crude being exported and government revenue being derived,” the source said.

Commenting further, he said that “We are looking towards creating an enduring initiative to meet new challenges posed by modern-day smugglers against government’s efforts at increasing national revenue by plugging leakages that weaken our economy and industries”,
stressing that when the Nigerian Customs Service air wing comes fully on stream, its task would focus essentially on border patrol to search for smuggling routes, border warehouses as
well to intercept smugglers.

The air wing it was further learnt may also be expected to assist in countering insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in addition to being on stand-by in response to
national emergency situations.

Congestion Fears Over Apapa Port Truck Drivers’ Strike
Apapa port was hit by congestion fever over an industrial action by truck drivers in late September, reports Thisday. The drivers were protesting the delay they encounter while returning empty containers or taking deliveries out of Apapa port.

They accused the concessionaires of not allowing them to enter the terminal to either return empty containers or take delivery of containers but some sources said the concessionaires were constrained by lack of space for the number of trucks entering the terminal.

This, it was gathered, led to long queues, a development that led to some of the truck drivers staying idle for days before it could be their turn to do business at the port.

They declared a strike which started on Tuesday and ended on Friday.

Some of the drivers who gathered in front of the port for the time that the strike lasted called on the management to find a lasting solution to a situation where truck drivers spend days on the road just to pick one container or return an empty.

A source close to one of the terminal operators said the spaces inside the terminals were not enough to accommodate all the trucks wishing to come in, adding that this was the reason for limiting the number of trucks going into the port.

The truck drivers were also worried about the level of corruption among the security agents manning the gate.

One of the drivers said that some truck drivers desperate to enter the port had to grease the palm of some of the agents, after which they were allowed to jump the queue and enter.

In what appeared like a move to address the congestion at the port, one of the terminal operators, APM Terminals Apapa, has announced that all containers classified as fast track (blue channel), “would no longer attract the general Customs Inspection charge, but a minimal administrative and operational charge instead”.

Among the reasons given for this, according to the company, was to check the congestion in the ports caused by the excessive number of containers undergoing physical examination in port.

Chief commercial officer spokesman for APM Terminals Limited, one of the subsidiaries of the Danish logistics and port operations giant, AP Moller-Maersk Group, Mr. Koen De Backker, said this will encourage more importers to effectively use the fast track scheme for the clearance of their cargoes from the port