By Eguono Odjegba
THE intractable challenges associated with the evacuation of empty containers from the Lagos ports has taken a different dimension following a widespread allegation by importers, clearing agents, freight forwarders and logistics providers that Nigeria has become dump ground for expired containers.
While stakeholders contend that containers have a maximum of 20 years lifespan, they accused Maerskline, China Shipping, Cosco, Nedlloyd, CMA CMG and others of not only using Nigeria as a dump ground for these expired boxes but equally making brisk business out of it through the demand for the payment of container deposit on every container of import.
This is even as some stakeholders further alleged that the foreign shipping lines found it convenient to concentrate the alleged expired containers to Nigeria since they are not allowed to ply expired ones in their home countries and the developed nations including some Indo-China countries; whose governments have efficient control system against unacceptable standards.
Reacting, chief executive officer of Skellas Nigeria Limited and immediate past national president of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu said the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has the responsibility for standard container oversight.
According to him, “The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has the responsibility of monitoring and ensuring that only acceptable standard containers are used in bringing goods to our ports. Even Nigerian highways are littered with so much abandoned containers. The shipping companies compensate themselves with container deposits when the value of some of those containers is not even up to the sum of the deposit.
“I won’t be surprised that Nigeria has become a dumping ground for expired containers. Containers are valuable for cargo distribution, the routine is to use them around the world for 20 years in most cases and be disposed of properly. Surprisingly you can apply to the container agent that you want to buy a container and they give you invoice, so it’s the media that should investigate and let Nigerians know what is happening because the local agent selling is the representative of the liners.
“So are they trying to recycle the containers? But what would be the motive for dumping containers, and when you juxtapose that too many shipwrecks abandoned by their owners at our waterways, most of the shipwrecks are foreign-owned, you begin to worry. They are economically valuable; the steels can be processed into other economic uses. So the issue is rather complicated.”
Also speaking on the matter, erudite customs agent and business tycoon, Chief Ernest Elochukwu said the issue is hydra-headed and blamed the Nigerian authority for exhibiting relatively little control measures that may have resulted in the present fears and allegations.
His words: “I cannot confirm off-hand the veracity of that information. But then judging from what has been going on for a long time now, it is possible that because of the problems of returning the empties that there might have been some kind of compromise on the quality of containers they use in bringing goods here.
“The empties are supposed to be returned to ports of shipment, so when the empties are not promptly returned there are bound to be a breach in the system and could result in the situation we are said to be in right now. As a country we should be asking ourselves a lot of questions, first, why did we fail to plan for the future expansion of our premier ports, talking about Apapa and Tin Can, which attracts almost our entire import.
“Some of the problems surfacing must be traced back to lack of foresight and proper planning by government and its agencies. For some time there has been blaming trading between operators and government agencies, this has no room if the respective authorities have been up and doing.”
Ship agent, importer and industrialist, Chief James Idornigie said there is no need for worry if the containers can deliver goods safely and without question of quality crisis. He said: “It is still a rumour, nothing official has been said about it. I know that some of the containers are also leased by shipping companies who monitor the movement of these containers wherever they are. Lloyd Insurance also takes interest in container leasing, they also aware of containers movement and are monitoring.”
”I don’t know how the expiration of containers concerns Nigeria if the liner is able to deliver our goods. If the condition of a container affects the quality of imported goods, yes, we can make a case.”
Contributing, President of National Association of Govt. Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Chief Uche Increase said the lifespan of a container is not in dispute in Nigeria and urged the relevant authorities to do the needful to ensure that shipping lines adhere to the rules of engagement.