By Ifeyinwa Obi
LAGOS â€” The ongoing rift between freight forwarders and terminal operators, AP Moller, is threatening the capacity of the Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Command to meet its revenue target.
The Customs headquarters had at the beginning of this fiscal year, given theÂ command a revenue target of N216 billion, which translates to N18 billion monthly.
Following the agentsâ€™ threats to withdraw their services in protest against inadequate equipment and poor service delivery, that cause undue delays at the APMT terminal, theÂ Minister of Transport, Alhaji YusufÂ Suleiman, had directed that no vessel should call at APMT Apapa facilities pending the de-congestion of the backlog at the terminal.
The problems, according sources, were as result of APMTâ€™s inability to effectively handle cargo for the freight forwarders under Apapa CommandÂ due to inadequate cargo handling equipment.
The Public Relations Officer of Apapa Command, Mr Dera Nnadi, who raised an alarm at the weekend,Â said the ministerâ€™s directive, which came after fruitless meetings mediated by the Command between APMT and the agents, would adversely affect revenue generation of the Command.
According to him, no fewer than six vessels had so far been diverted to Tincan Island Port and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal in compliance with the ministerâ€™s directive.
The Command handles overÂ 500 TEUâ€™s on direct delivery and is expected to collect over N900million daily from both containerised and bulk cargo going by its revenue target for the year 2010, but the actual collection is about N750million daily.
He feared that this trend might continue if urgent measures were not put in place by the APMTÂ management to improve its plant availability as well as service delivery.
One of the reasons that informed the decision of the agents to go on strike was the inability of the terminal operator, APMT to position containers on request. According to the agents, it takes the terminal operator minimum of seven days to position containers for Customs examination.
â€œThis is against the expectation of government and Customs Service that cargo must be delivered out of the ports in 48 hoursâ€, he said.
Nnadi advised AP Moller to align with this government policy and stated that â€œthe Command is more than ever committed to trade facilitation as well as reduction of cost of doing business in the nationâ€™s seaports.â€
He appealed to the management of APMT to consider, urgently, the acquisition of new plants and equipment to facilitate cargo delivery.