The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is planning to mandate shipping agencies to open disbursement accounts (DAs) that would enable them transact with their principals overseas, in line with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) global operating standards for shipping agents.
Hassan Bello, executive secretary of NSC, said at a meeting held recently in Lagos between the CBN representatives and industry stakeholders, that maintenance of a disbursement accounts as provided by ‘UNCTAD Minimum Standards for Shipping Agents’ will put an end to the agent going to the local market to source foreign exchange for settling charges incurred locally.
Bello, who was represented by Samuel Vongtao, director, Legal Services of the Council, listed such charges to include those collected by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration Agency (NIMASA); ship chandelling and others.
Such charges, he said, were usually in foreign exchange since it was assumed that the principal must have wired the funds to the disbursement of account of the agent in foreign exchange.
According to him, it was left for the agents to make such payments in currency that was transferred to the disbursement account rather than going to the interbank market to source for foreign exchange.
“It was wrong that in Nigeria the practice was completely different. Shipping agents apply to transfer all incomes to their principal while at the same time applying to CBN for Forex at interbank market to service local costs,” he added.
Bello expressed delight that the CBN whose attention has been drawn to this vacuum by the Council had responded by setting up an investigative team that went to all banks to ascertain that there was no such account being operated by any shipping agent in the country.
Saleh Jibrin, CBN deputy director, Foreign Exchange Management, Trade & Exchange Department, said the idea of meeting with stakeholders was to ensure that the disbursement account enjoys the support of those in the shipping industry.
Jibrin stated that the CBN wants to listen to the stakeholders in order to make policies that will grow the shipping industry as well as the national economy.
Dabney Shall-Holma, former director, shipping services of NSC, said the Disbursement Account when introduced will go a long way in improving the contribution of the shipping sector to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).