Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has identified policy inconsistencies in the maritime sector as the bane of development in the sector.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP over the weekend, the Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup said inconsistent government policies have held the maritime industry down. ‘‘Government need to ensure that consistency in policy is applied to the economy because there are lot of inconsistencies in policies that they keep changing from time to time and these does not augur well for business owners. The maritime industry has a huge potentials if right policies are made. What the Nigerian port industry need is consistency in policies making.
“The port industry doesn’t need inconsistent policies. We don’t need policy summersult. The manufacturers are bleeding right now because they cannot plan, it may be N400 to a dollar today and in another one week, it is N450. That makes it very difficult for business owners to plan. That is quite scary and that is why investors are moving out of the country, investors do not have confidence in injecting finances into business in Nigeria and the reason was due to inconsistent government policies,” she said.
Haastrup who is also the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, operator of terminal C&D, Apapa Port, Lagos further stated that private investors need government confidence which can only be achieved through consistent policies. According to her, the maritime industry is second to oil with huge potentials only if the right policies are made.
She siad: “Businesses owners need consistent government policies before they can open letter of credit or source for foreign exchange from the black market to bring goods into the country.
“For instance, Customs tariff keeps changing from time to time and before it changes for instance an importer of goods will have shipped his cargo from wherever it is and before the cargo lands, Customs has increased the tariff on such cargo then that business owner is already messed up and got into trouble financially so this are all the fortunes we need to sync.
“The port industry has a huge potential but like i said only if the right policies are applied. We know the port industry is second to oil it is such a huge industry because it comprised of big operators such as – Terminal operators, Truck Operators, Shipping Companies, Clearing Agents – that is a huge industry, it is an industry that can provide jobs for youths, provide jobs for families, it is an industry that has potentials to generate huge revenue for the government but only if we have consistency in policies.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, the Nigeria Customs Service said it generated over N50b but they can do more than that because of the capacity that is available in the port industry if the right policies are made and applied. The service can earn more than that if there is an enabling environment for business to thrive but even with what was declared, it showed that the capacity within the maritime sector is so huge.”
According to her, terminal operators are badly affected by the current economic recession the country slided into.
“As it is the port industry is so much affected by the downturn affecting the economy of Nigeria and that is because importers of goods into Nigeria needs foreign exchange to be able to import, buy goods and ship them into Nigeria and if dollar is not readily available to them, it will affect the volume of cargoes that are coming into the Nigerian ports and affected our revenue.
“As I am talking to you today, ENL has only two ships at berth out of berths of 10. Couple of days ago we have only one ship at berth and two weeks ago for period of five days we have no ship at all and that showed how negatively the recession has affected the port industry which is so unfortunate,” she lamented.