P&CHS vehicle importation launch exposes unhealthy rivalry among port operators

•We have called everybody to order —NPA

Findings have revealed that the recent launch of vehicle importation services otherwise called Roll-On-Roll-Off (RoRo) operation by the Ports & Cargo Handling Services (P&CHS) Limited has resulted in an unhealthy rivalry amongst neighbouring port operators at the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos.

This is even as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it had called all aggrieved parties to order.

According to investigations, some terminal operators involved in RoRo port operations lodged complaints with the NPA on the eve of the commencement of the RoRo services by the P&CHS. This aggrieved terminal operators even went as far as asking the NPA to stop the P&CHS RoRo operations, claiming it is not part of their concession agreement.

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, a clearing agent at the Tin-Can Island Port, Sylvanus Okpara, said “the aggrieved terminal operators were scared of competition over RoRo business because P&CHS had partnered with foremost international shipping agent, Auto Export Shipping (AES) and Hyundai Glovis in a Joint Venture agreement that is expected to wrest the larger chunk of the market in its favour.

“Furthermore, P&CHS included value addition services to its RoRo operation by taking imported vehicles to its off dock facility in Okota, right inside Lagos to enhance ease of vehicle clearance convenience for would-be-prospective-clients like me. This is unprecedented since many of its rivals don’t offer such luxury.

“So instead of customers to come all the way to the seaport in Lagos and then face the hardship of taking their vehicles out of the port due to the bad seaports access roads and the chaotic Apapa traffic gridlock, P&CHS off dock facility in Okota provides us the opportunities to clear our vehicles right inside Lagos.

“It was due to this that the aggrieved terminal operators petitioned the NPA and asked the agency to stop the RoRo project of P&CHS. There were fears they could lose the whole market to P&CHS,” he said.

When Nigerian Tribune contacted the General Manager, Public Affairs of the NPA, Capt. Ihenacho Ebubuegou, he confirmed that some terminal operators complained to the NPA over P&CHS commencement of RoRo operations.

Speaking exclusively, Ebubuegou explained that “we have resolved the issue by calling everybody to order. The problem arose because before the economic recession, some terminal operators did not bother to participate in certain businesses that are contained in their concession agreement.

“But now that the recession is here, this set of terminal operators that had not bothered to look at the concession agreement and participate in all stated business operations therein, now did so. That was the case with P&CHS.

“However, other terminal operators who saw this development now alleged that such operation is outside the framework of the concession agreement they all signed with us.  But we have called all of them to the NPA corporate headquarters and resolved the issue.

“We pointed out to the aggrieved operators that nobody is encroaching on anybody’s business. We made them to understand that these things were already in the concession agreement, but that because business was good in one area, there was no effort to exploit the entire scope of the agreement they (P&CHS) signed with us.

“We have made them to understand that nobody has done anything wrong. The diversification by some operators (P&CHS) is within the context of their concession agreement with government. Others should not see it as going outside the concession agreement they all signed with government.”