By Moses Uwagbale
Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has urged haulage operators to reduce the freight rates to decongest the nation’s seaports amid COVID-19 pandemic.
The Executive Secretary, Mr Hassan Bello made the appeal at a meeting with truck owners under the aegis of Council of Maritime Truck Union and Association (COMTUA).
Bello, according to a statement, said truck owners must sacrifice and contribute to the sustainability of the nation’s economy during the crisis.
He said that that the nation did not need astronomical or unrealistic freight rates, as the ports needed to be decongested.
“We are here to discuss the issue of cost, NSC has tried to bring out indicative freight rate for guidance and we are not directing you to obey, but what we are doing is obtainable anywhere in the world.
“We cannot continue to have price differentials at whims and caprices of the owners; there must be some guidelines on freight rate just like we are doing with shipping companies, terminal operators and consolidators.
“Everyone must have a price regime and we are not fixing the price, we will leave that to demand and supply, but there must be some limit because Shippers abroad, everyday, make enquiries but we are at loss because of no standard indicative rate.
“We want you to help us to have a standard rate so that there will be competition,” he said.
Bello said that the council would further engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on reduction of their charges.
He urged them not to allow Nigeria’s economy to be at standstill, appealing to them to be patriotic, keep people in employment and operate at the port to help clear the cargoes.
Bello noted that since the council and NPA had both secured storage and rent-free period for importers, the haulage operators should also ensure movement of the cargoes out of the port.
“We cannot overemphasise the importance of haulers to the economy, especially now that we are having to face this pandemic. What we want is for the hauler to ensure port operation is done.
“NSC has secured demurrage-free period during the lockdown and NPA has also secured 21 days free rent period from the terminal and this combination has given us relief and advantage to take as much cargoes out of the port.
“There is limitation in trucks and that is why we are appealing to you to help us find solution, because the rate of occupancy is getting to 90 per cent, that there is no space for cargoes at the terminal anymore, and this is because trucks are not coming to evacuate cargoes.
“Let us use this opportunity, rent and demurrage-free period and also the free road to deploy trucks to the port,” he said.
The General Coordinator, Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Association (COMTUA) Mr Stephen Okafor, agreed that the truck owners would lower the price to meet present realities.
He, however, urged the council to call an expanded meeting after the COVID-19 pandemic to draw up uniform freight rates for all truck owners.
“On pricing, we have earlier called for freight rate standardisation but was not enforced, and we have so many unions in the industry.
“We are not against coming down on the pricing and I agree that will be part of our own contribution,” Okafor said.