Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Interview- "...the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, London, through its Nigeria Chapter, and Clarion Events West Africa would be able to contribute to the bottom-line of economic growth in this region'

1. Tell us about your Association and its activity in Nigeria.

Our Association, The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers London, is the professional body for commercial shipping worldwide and the only internationally recognized body conducting examinations and awarding qualifications for commercial shipping professionals. It was established in 1911, incorporated in 1913 and received Royal Charter in 1920. It has its Head Office in London with 25 branches worldwide, including our West Africa Branch. It is renowned for Capacity-building, Education consultancy, Training, Awareness-raising and professionalism under strict ethical standards. Its motto, OUR WORD OUR BOND, speaks volumes.

The Institute’s membership is mainly through examinations and exposure in shipping. Companies too can become corporate members if they meet set criteria. There are 14 International Teaching Centers and aggregate of over 100 examination centers worldwide to cover both May and November examinations.

The Institute represents all aspects of the shipping business and includes in its membership, Chartered Shipbrokers, ship-owners, charterers, agents, forwarders and other shipping professionals. It is dedicated to the setting and maintenance of the highest professional standards in international transport and shipping business.

On the Institute’s activities in Nigeria, prior to the official launching of the Nigeria Chapter on March 14 2017, we engaged some corporate bodies to collaborate with us to progress shipping knowledge, professionalism and to bridge knowledge-gap. We are on continual membership drive. The activities encapsulates , training and retraining of shipping professionals to handle business of vessel chartering, port and terminal management, ship sale and purchase, ship agency services etc, professionally and with utmost integrity; Since the launching of the Nigeria Chapter, many student members were mentored and encouraged to  write the Institute’s examinations, some in May and some in November 2017. Some students who were successful in previous examinations and who satisfied the requirements for membership were nominated to the Controlling Council in London and got elected Members (MICS).

We are introducing “Understanding Shipping” as the rudiments of shipping to all new comers into the shipping industry. The Nigerian Shippers Council and the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping bought into this idea as it is perceived as a course which is an excellent eye-opener to shipping; next is the introduction of Bespoke Training to help bridge knowledge-gap amongst existing staff of government parastatals, corporations and companies involved in commercial shipping.

2. What are the reasons for your collaboration with Clarion Events West Africa on their International transport, logistics and supply chain management exhibition; Multimodal West Africa?

As we all know, collaboration gives opportunity to carry out one’s mission with a partner organization that shares a common, similar vision; we collaborate mainly because it is an esteemed means to an end. The end in this case is to see how we can bridge identified knowledge-gaps in commercial shipping and intermodal logistics to help improve logistics business in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region as a whole. The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers is in pursuit of training to bridge knowledge-gaps, networking for excellence and highest professional standards across the shipping industry; as a professional body it has been handling these through training worldwide for about 100 years, covering all aspects of the shipping business at all levels, for company or organization staff, Chartered Shipbrokers, shipowners, charterers, agents, freight forwarders and other shipping professionals. The Clarion Events West Africa on the other hand, through the Multimodal event, focuses on integrating shipping and logistics practices for the stakeholders in shipping business and the event has opened an avenue for improved relationships at their exhibitions and consequent networking thereafter. The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers was present and actively participated in the 3 days’ event of the maiden edition of Multimodal West Africa event which was held in Q1 2017 and adjudged a huge success by many of the almost 3,000 participants

Based on the positive impacts the event had in the way we run logistics business in a growing economy, it is believed that the subsequent events would be effective building blocks on the strong economic improvements’ foundation laid in 2017, as it would bring together the stakeholders and practitioners involved in International Commercial Shipping, Intermodal Logistics and Supply Chain management, which would be a gateway for the Institute to continually improve its drive at Capacity building in the commercial shipping arena to contribute to economic growth in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region.

With this collaboration we have the assurance that both the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, London, through its Nigeria Chapter, and Clarion Events West Africa would be able to contribute to the bottom-line of economic growth in this region.

3. What challenges do your members face when trying to increase their business development in the Nigerian transport & logistics industry?

They are numerous. 

Lack of recognition of Nigerian Content in our professional field is a major challenge.

Freight-forwarding and Ship Agency services are more or less exclusively reserved for non-professionals and foreign companies respectively. Also, there are many pseudo-shipbrokers who block the professional Chartered shipbrokers from penetrating the industry. A good example is seen in the acquisition of second-hand offshore vessels where potential shipowners engage foreign pseudo-shipbrokers to handle their ship purchase for them instead of seeking the services of Nigerian professional Chartered shipbrokers, certified by the British Institution. Many times these shipowners are made to pay high prices for old vessels that are good enough only for the scrapyard. Such vessels end up not being operable after a couple of runs, thus becoming wrecks and economic drain artery for the nation; shipowners cannot pay back the bank loan taken for the vessel, the bank takes over the vessel and finds it difficult to find market for the scrap. 

These are the key areas of concern.

4. And how has the Association helped to increase the business development of its members in the Nigerian transport & logistics industry?

As earlier stated, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers has just been officially launched the Nigerian Chapter in the first Quarter of this year, 2017. As a result of this, the presence of the global professional body for commercial shipping would soon be the talk of the Industry in Nigeria. The awareness is being created on continual basis and institutions, organizations and government parastatals that we have paid courtesy and collaborative visits to are already embracing us after introducing the Institute’s programmes and its role in contributing to improved profitable commercial shipping to them. Some of such bodies are the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping and the Nigerian Shippers Council.

The Institute further supports its members through the 25-branch networking internationally, which would always make doing business with foreign countries (eg buying newbuild or secondhand ships) much easier, safer and more secure, even in diverse legal jurisdictions. 

5. How do you think the Federal Governments recent efforts to boost port and terminal activity will positively affect the transport & logistics industry?

Of late, the Federal Government has exercised its executive orders to rehabilitate the port access roads for easy movements of trucks to & fro our sea ports. We all know that the ports are the gateway to the nation’s economy; it is obvious that effective and efficient servicing of the access roads to provide good access free of traffic logjams, would make the ports contribute more to the nation’s GDP than ever before. Transport and logistics Industry would be positively affected as trailers and other trucks would have quick turnarounds with minimal delays as opposed to what has been hitherto happening, whereby trucks would be delayed on the access roads for days or weeks before reaching the port. This removal of higher lead times in cargo movements and introduction of lower turnaround times in supply chain would reduce costs of logistics and improve profitability while also contributing to ports de-congestion and ship’s quick turnarounds.

Concession of ports and terminals is another area of interest; it has brought in and would continue to improve infrastructural development as well as foreign and local investments in transport and logistics generally. The more efficient port management, resulting from the concession project, would contribute immensely to increasing the port and terminal throughput which in effect would translate to better transport and logistics business in the country.

Worth mentioning also is the Federal Government’s positive efforts in the creation of 6-zonal inland dry ports (freight/economic corridors) which would generate opportunities in the areas where they are sited and beyond.  

Inland Container Depots (ICDs) and Container Freight Stations (CFS) project has been commenced to aid the movements of goods and services to these hinterland ports. This project will further improve transportation infrastructure. Some of the other benefits envisaged are functioning as dry ports that help with reduction of congestion at seaports, thus augmenting terminal capacity at ports, aiding intermodal transfer of mainly unitized cargo, and helping with warehousing further from the ports. When these ICDs and CFS are fully operational, they would usher in cost-effectiveness and operational efficiencies in the transport and logistics sector.

To enjoy the full benefits therefrom, the government is expected to fast track the revamping of the rail, road and water transport systems to interconnect various zonal freight/economic corridors.

Finally, training and retraining to gain appropriate shipping knowledge through the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, in the areas of Logistics and Multimodal Transport, Port and Terminal Management and the like, is a very crucial success factor here.

6. Since the concession of 26 terminals to private terminal operators on the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model, Nigerian ports have witnessed a rapid transformation. West Africa now boasts a substantial presence of international port operators including:  APM Terminals, Bolloré, China Merchants, CMA Terminals, DP World, ICTSI, Portek and TIL Group. 

- What would be your message to international freight forwarders, 3PLs, shipping lines, technology & equipment providers for the transport & logistics industry that are interested in expanding their operations in the region?

For these interests, I believe there cannot be a better time than now to penetrate our growing economy to expand their operations in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region. Concessions have brought about major positive changes such as continual transportation infrastructure investments to enhance economic growth. 

With the ports and terminal concession to private international port operators there is, and would continue to be, performance improvements because dockworkers’ bottlenecks, avoidable delays, infrastructural challenges, etc., have been removed, and we can now boast of effectiveness and better efficiency in port management and improved port security: all these have together been shaping the way we do business at our ports and terminals (in Nigeria, this is under the Nigerian Shippers Council as the regulatory body and the Nigerian Ports Authority handling the day-to-day supervisory role). With this concession, there is a new dimension to improved maritime trade facilitation for economic development viz, international standards are being applied and maintained in our maritime business. We now enjoy vessels having quick turnarounds with port congestions under control.        

Increase in volumes of trade is therefore envisaged. With our reaction to the forecast of increased container throughputs, eg by introducing more container terminals, the government of Nigeria for example, has introduced hubs in the hinterland to reduce congestions at the main ports and terminals. This in effect would leverage the technology and equipment providers’ business as their services would be needed to grow the hinterland depots. Additionally, access ports’ roads are being reconstructed and the government is looking into the future of our rail transport and navigable inland waterways. 

There is therefore tremendous growth prospect in shipping and logistics trade zone. I term this “huge opportunity” for any serious international investors, freight forwarders, 3rd Party Logistics (3PLs), shipping lines, technology and equipment providers (for the transport & logistics industry) to cash in on.