Uche Usim, Abuja

The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, has described the country’s territorial waters as very safe, urging both offshore and onshore shipping companies to continue calling at Nigerian seaports to load and offload their cargoes.

He also said the council would provide quality training and a sustainable manpower development template for the operatives of the police and the Navy on the commercial aspect of shipping in its efforts to make the maritime sector the fulcrum of economic growth and diversification.

In an exclusive interview with our correspondent, in Abuja on Wednesday, Bello said the council had deepened collaboration with the Nigeria Police and the Navy to guarantee safer channels for shippers as enshrined in Federal government’s blueprint on promoting the ease of doing business.

He said: “I have visited the Nigerian Navy and the police as a part of our collaborative efforts to ensure the safety and security of our brown waters. I also like what NIMASA is doing in promoting safety and security.

“All these efforts have led to a remarkable reduction in armed robbery attacks on ships either at berth or on the sea. This makes our waters safe and we will not relent,” Bello explained.

The NSC boss, however, condemned in strong terms, the categorisation of Nigeria as a war-risk nation, leading to a spike in insurance premiums slammed on vessels and cargoes destined for Nigeria by offshore insurers.

He insists that the few incidents of attacks recorded on Nigerian waters were not sufficient to warrant tagging Nigeria a war-risk nation.

“We do not deserve the war-risk clause tagged on us. Our waters are safe. Again, this is where I have to commend Marine Police for greatly streamlining procedures for cargo clearance at the ports. We’re also ensuring lesser vessel dwell time at ports. The responsiveness of the new IGP has been remarkable. So, it is the Navy, police, and NIMASA. We’re all working on a comprehensive policy framework to boost shipping in Nigeria airplanes that the maritime industry can boost its contributions to the nation’s GDP,” he added.

Recall that two shipping companies, CMA-CGM and Hapag Lloyd recently issued electronic statements, announcing the increment in their freight rate with the introduction of what they called ‘Peak Season Surcharge’ (PSS) on all cargoes originating from anywhere in the world to Tin-Can, Apapa ports in Lagos and Onne Port in Rivers State.