AFCFTA: Fleet expansion, port tariff tops agenda engagement series

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By Oluwabunmi Ogunjimi

AHEAD of Nigeria’s participation in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the National Action Committee on the implementation of  AfCFTA engagement series for maritime sub-sector pin-pointed fleet expansion and port tariffs as some of the major issues that will hamper the nation’s participation of the initiative.

This was contained in a Communiqué issued at the end of NAC’s last meeting held virtually last week.

Trade Area (AfCFTA) on Transportation Sector is to coordinates the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement in the Sector (Rail, Road, Maritime and Aviation).

NAC also suggested that negotiation and understanding by National Ports Authorities in the Sub-Region to institute mutual recognitions for regional Cargo and Ship Owners to have preferential privilege for intraregional transportation in order to build and or improve indigenous supply capabilities must be considered.

The Committee also said that the need to introduce favorable port tariff regime for transit and transshipment cargoes by Nigerian ports, so as to promote hub activities and facilitate intra-regional trade cannot be over-emphasized adding that  creating a single window profile and a trade hub on the internet regarding payment of trade in the single window is needed. This will assist to identify the issues to come under the trade hub.

Part of the Communiqué reads “The interministerial frictions that have developed with the Ministry of Transportation handling what the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is coordinating should be addressed so that both ministries are working together in unison.

“The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) should be involved in the ongoing engagement program with stakeholders so that their views as recognized.

“There should be the creation of a trade hub facilitated by the single window portal to aid trade and dissemination of information to relevant agencies and private sector players. The timely dissemination of relevant information to each value chain will further facilitate trade and make trade potentials more visible. This is particularly important as Nigeria develops itself as a major transit hub in West Africa under AfCFTA.

“There is urgent need for improvement in Ports infrastructure with appropriate legislation and regulation to coordinate the port operations recognizing security and international best practices. The regulations should also involve coordinating the continued study and research on Cargo movement and availability within Nigerian territorial waters.

“The Government of the Federation should grant incentives for fleet acquisition and ship operations. The tax regime and requirements for ship registration and ownership in Nigeria should be revisited to address the bottlenecks and issues that makes Nigeria currently unattractive for ship acquisition and registration.

“There should also be an increase in the financial resources for port infrastructure especially the dredging of ports to allow more vessels and permit the Nigerian Ports Authority to do this. This could be finances from both the public and the private sector. For the private sector, there should be proper fiscal incentives for such investment.

“There is a need to introduce favorable port tariff regimes for transit and transshipment cargoes by Nigerian ports and also to increase the number of ports that are operational within the Nigerian territorial waters. This incentive will promote hub activities and facilitate intra-regional trade.

“There is a need to harmonize the Nigerian Maritime Policy with the AfCFTA Agreement and other relevant maritime treaties from ECOWAS and the African Union. Nigerian maritime laws and policy should address the operation of African flagged vessels within Nigerian territorial waters and where necessary sign bilateral treaties to recognize such relationships.”

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