Basking in the euphoria of its recent affirmation by the Federal government as the preferred economic regulatory agency in the maritime sector, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has expressed the need for more powers for it to adequately perform the expected role.
Executive Secretary of Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, has made the call said amendment of the extant NSC Act will give the Council express powers to properly carry out its economic regulation roles in maritime industry.
Bello made the suggestion in his comment on a paper entitled: “The Role of Nigerian Shippers’ Council in the Maritime Industry and Transport’’ which was presented on his behalf by Mr. Chibuzo Ekwekwuo; Partner; A & E Law Partners at the Maritime Seminar for Judges which ended in Abuja, recently.
According to him, the agency needs more powers will enable the council to make strong regulation and issue guidelines and regulatory notices for economic regulation without incurring the inconveniences of going through unnecessary litigation.
“`By a new legislation through an Act of the National Assembly, creating a new body to regulate economic activities in the maritime industry and transport, the NSC shall then be transformed into a new body to perform its economic regulatory functions as prescribed by the new legislation” he said.
“In this regard, the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill before the National Assembly is relevant. The NTC Bill prescribes similar functions for the NTC as those being performed by the NSC at present” he noted.
The executive secretary said that it would therefore be more reasonable and economical to transform the NSC into the NTC instead of creating a new agency which would amount to unnecessary duplication.
According to him, what the NSC needs at the moment to reenergize is to effectively perform its role in the industry within an appropriate legal framework.
He called on the legislature to look into the needs and come up with the envisaged permanent legal framework to support the performance of the council’s additional role of economic regulation in the maritime industry and transport.
The executive secretary noted that the major problems confronting shippers against the Shippers’ Council was to proffer solutions where shipment problems arise.
These include: availability and adequacy of shipping space; frequency of sailing; freight rates, safety of cargo on board vessels, terms of shipments and documentations technological changes.
Bello said that the 2015 Regulation sought to improve the regulatory regime in Nigerian ports for the control of tariffs, rates and other related economic charges.
“It requires the NSC to enforce fair trade practices to protect rights and balance interest of providers and users of port services as it had always been required to do in Section 3 of its establishment Act.
“Also it reinforces its mediatory roles and requires it to establish modern dispute resolution mechanisms, minimize high costs of doing business, act as Interim economic regulator, including as required by the Port Concession Agreements”.
He said the regulation requires the NSC to encourage competition and guard against the abuse of monopoly, regulate market entry and exit.
He pointed out that the NSC would also ensure compliance of all parties with the Port Concession Agreements to improve affordability, efficiency and ensure protection of shippers’ interest adding that, of all public agencies stakeholders at the ports, “NSC is the best positioned to be appointed and to act as Regulator of the port or transport sector”.