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Heightened port congestion: Customs agents raise alarm over diversion of cargo to Cameroon

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It is criminal —Freight Forwarders

By Godwin Oritse & Eguono Odjegba

Apapa, Customs

AT the backdrop of an increasing congestion at the Lagos ports, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, has called on the Federal Government to liaise with ocean liners to stem cargo vessels currently waiting to berth at the Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onne anchorages, and to divert them to other ports nationwide.

ANLCA said the measure has become necessary as cargo diversion to ports in Cameroon has already started in response to the gridlock in Lagos anchorage.

Industry operators say the diverted cargoes are now re-shipped by boats to Nigeria from Cameroon.

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The largest body of customs brokers and freight forwarders operating in the Nigerian ports, borders and airports expressed concern that the affected ports have continued to attract heavy truck traffic and to slow down economic activities, a situation the group argued will further compound challenges of ongoing ports access roads rehabilitation and congestion at the identified ports.

A statement signed by the National President of ANLCA, Hon. Tony Nwabunike, and made available to Vanguard Report Maritime, stated in part: “We observe that a lot of ships are presently waiting to berth in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onne, thereby attracting trucks and other heavy duty vehicles to these areas. This development has not only hampered free movement of cargo laden trucks, it is impacting adversely on the ongoing port access road construction.

“In addition to causing loss of revenue to government, the situation has capacity to create unemployment and slow national economic growth. We hereby call on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct that ships waiting on Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onne anchorages be diverted within a period of three months to Warri and Calabar ports, in Delta and Cross River states, respectively.”

The ANLCA leader said that Nigeria bound cargoes were presently being diverted to Douala Port in Cameroun due to vessel queue and delayed turnaround time, adding, “Shippers and cargo owners are very conscious about ships turnaround time and will likely embrace opportunities for quicker discharge of cargoes.”

He said the redirection of cargoes from Lagos to other ports will not only support the government’s Ease of Doing Business objective but also reduce the number of trucks on some port access roads and allow speedy execution of the ongoing construction along the Lagos ports corridor.

He stated further: “This action requires some urgency before we enter another rainy season when construction work may be slowed down. It will also make for even distribution of maritime trade among cities where ports are domiciled while opening the economy to fresh business opportunities.”

Reacting to the development, the Chairman of the Port Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said that it is the owner of cargo that decides where he wants his goods consigned adding that the ship owner can also decide against his vessel coming to Lagos port so as to avoid payment of congestion surcharge.

Folarin said that Nigeria should take advantage of the congestion and make a hub out of Lagos ports complex.

He explained that the diverted cargoes to the ports of Douala could be transshipped to Nigeria due to port congestion currently being experienced at the Lagos ports.

He suggested that the terminal operators, Customs and other port users will need to live up to expectation by doubling the level of their productivity.

Speaking in similar vein, founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Mr. Boniface Aniebonam, told Vanguard Maritime Report that cargo diversion was criminal adding that every cargo has a destination.

“The contract of affreightment is very clear, cargo must have a destination,” he stated.

Vanguard

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