The inward cargo throughput of Nigeria’s seaports has recorded a 31.24 per cent increase between January-June 2018 in response to the decision of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA to carry out a downward review of its three per cent freight levy, says Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.

NIMASA, which core mandates include regulating shipping, especially in terms of ensuring navigational safety, maritime domain security, and promoting the development of shipping in the country, among others, statutorily collects three per cent freight levy from all vessels that call at the nation’s seaports as its statutory source of funding.

While speaking with maritime editors and journalists on the activities of the agency during a breakfast meeting in Lagos, Wednesday, the NIMASA CEO disclosed that the agency decided to do a downward review of its three per cent freight levy to reflect current realities in the global shipping business, a development that scaled down its revenue but boosted cargo throughput.

Available data show that a total of 96.427 million metric tonnes of cargo was handled at the nation’s various seaports between January and June, 2018 as against that of 73.629 million metric tonnes of cargo handled in the comparative period of 2017, representing a growth rate of 31.24 per cent.

“Within the Period, the agency reviewed freight rates benchmark for the three per cent billing. The review was done to reflect prevailing realities in shipping based on the request by operators. The significance of this new benchmark is that it has fostered harmonious regulator-operator relationship.

“Also the review brought about positive trends in the industry, leading to more patronage. So far in 2018, total cargo throughput (January-June) is 96,626,737.96 metric tonnes, showing 31.24 per cent increase from the cargo throughput of same period in 2017, which stood at 73,628,546.62 metric tonnes.

“By reviewing our three per cent freight levy, we do not insist on revenue generation alone, but rather to grow investments, create a level operating environment and by so doing achieve a lot of improvements in the relationships between the regulator and operators, which builds more confidence in the Nigerian system”,  Peterside said.

The DG, who also gave insights into other operational activities of the agency, disclosed that the country recorded a 10.3 per cent growth in the number of foreign vessels that call at her various seaports, which is above the 15 per cent benchmark of the International Maritime Organisation IMO, in response to the improved port state regulatory functions of the agency.

It was further gathered that the country recorded a 27 per cent growth in the number of vessels registered in its ship register as a result of improvements in the agency’s flag state control regulations even as 21 per cent growth rate was achieved in the coastal activities in response to the improved coastal state functions.

The DG insists that due to the tremendous improvements in its coastal regulatory functions, the country can no longer be described as safe haven for substandard vessels.

In terms of building capacity, it was gathered that over 298 cadets under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme NSDP, an interventionist initiative by the agency have been engaged on trading vessels in the United Kingdom and Egypt for their one year mandatory sea time training leading to the award of Certificate of Competency CoC, as required by the IMO.

It was further gathered that the agency is concluding plans with the United Arab Shipping Line for the sea time training of 100 Nigerian cadets free on board the company’s vessels, which translates to 20 cadets per annum, which would further reduce the country’s stock of cadets, who have yet to complete their mandatory sea time training, among several other interventions by the agency.