THE Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) has urged the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola, to halt the continuous revenue losses the nation is incurring in its shipping agency businesses.

Moreover, the group said the country is losing in excess of $100bn annually to foreign dominance of its shipping agency businesses.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, the National President of NAMM, Captain Tajudeen Alao, explained that many of the foreign ships that call Nigerian ports conduct their shipping agency transactions from their home country even when they are inside the nation’s ports.

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According to Captain Alao, “Under shipping agency services, we have the one for Liner Shipping and we also have Ship Husbandry. Nigeria has enough experience in chartering of ships. We have Nigerians with enough experience in Ship Brokerage. If government can guarantee cargoes, we have the manpower to do these things. If the cargo is available, we have those that can secure a vessel.

“The other area is the shipping agency business. Nigeria is losing a lot of revenue in excess of $100bn annually. It is the Nigeria Customs Service that license a Shipping Agent to cater for ships that call at our ports. Apart from Comet Shipping that has established a Shipping Agency office in Nigeria, most of the other shipping lines that call our ports conducts their shipping agency business from their home country, thus leading to huge capital flight for Nigeria.

“Shipping lines like Grimaldi, Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), CMA-CGM amongst others conduct their shipping agency business from overseas when their vessels call our ports. This is against international best practice and the Minister must look into this.

“Normally, the owner of the ship, under what we call the Protective Agent, and the owner of the cargo under what we call the Shipping Agency is supposed to send money to local agents in the country where their vessels visit, that is port of call. The money sent covers bottom clearance of the vessel and other shipping agency services.

“What the law says is that the Shipping Agent will provide ship husbandry. What this means is that the owner of the ship will send money to the Local Shipping Agent in Nigeria for clearance of the ship with Customs and also to look after the crew onboard the ship. The money also covers supply of water, cargo repairs, transportation of crew, crew welfare and their medicals amongst other services. The local shipping agents also serves as intermediary between the Master of the ship and local transactions. Its big business, but Nigeria is losing out.

“Most of the shipping companies that call our ports do these transactions from overseas instead of giving Nigerian Shipping Agents these services. I have travelled all over the world onboard vessels and what we usually do when we get to foreign ports is to engage local shipping agents in these countries for shipping agency services.

“You have to be licensed to clear vessels at the ports and we have many in Nigeria that are licensed, but these big shipping lines don’t patronise local shipping agents in Nigeria.”

When asked if this anomaly is down to the fact that Nigeria lacks its own shipping line, the NAMM President replied that, “No, it is not connected to ownership of ships or not. It is an international trade practice that is well accepted globally.

“It is only in Nigeria that foreign shipping lines conduct their shipping agency transactions from overseas. They don’t do so in other climes, and the new Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy has to look into this,”

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