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Port congestion: Customs reactivates ILT long-room

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Port congestion

Sets to revert to command structure

By Eguono Odjegba

THERE are indications that the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, currently serving as Nigerian Customs Warehouse is being fitted with a cargo clearance documentation unit known as Customs Processing Centre, CPC, or Customs long room.

The ILT warehouse which was a full fledge Customs command until it was converted to a warehouse by the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), in 2018 may however, also revert to an operational command going by additional information gathered by our reporter who was at the terminal recently.

About 800 overtime containers and 1000 overtime vehicles were transferred to the ILT, from mother seaports in Lagos, including Apapa, Tin Can Island and PTML Customs area commands.

Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that efforts are ongoing to open the place up to importers and their agents to clear their containers and vehicles. According to the in-house source who pleaded not to be named the change in the status of the Customs service at ILT is imminent hinting that work is in progress.

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The officer who was reacting to Vanguard Maritime Report enquiry on alleged container poaching and reported cargo clearance delays, denied knowledge of such, assuring that the place is safe and undergoing changes.

His words: “It is true that some overtime containers and vehicles were brought here, but it is not true that containers are not safe. Maybe you should wait and see the officer in charge but I am telling you that this place is safe. Currently, we don’t treat documents here; Apapa Command sends us the documents and we merely release. Maybe that is why you are talking about delay.

”With the present development, there are some changes going on. We are going to open the CPC. The Zonal Coordinator has written to the CGC, they are sending people over to reactivate the CPC; so instead of documents coming and going back to Apapa to release a consignment here, the whole process will be done here.

“Once the full operation resides here, activities will go up. Already all the vehicles that were brought here during the transfer, if you go to PTML, they are no longer in the system; they have been blocked; they can only be reactivated here and released. This is the clearing system now.”

Officer in-charge of the Warehouse, Assistant Comptroller Kidda, declined to comment on the above information when contacted on telephone and referred our reporter to the zonal office. Contacted, ILT Chapter Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Prince Lawal confirmed these developments.

According to him, “I have heard the story too; I believe that it is true. As you can see Apapa and Tin Can Island ports are congested, I think Customs is doing the right thing to reverse its earlier decision and return ILT Command to its old structure.

“Apart from receiving excess cargo from Lagos, I think Customs can also allocate full cargo ships down here; it is a full command with plenty of space. It will help reduce pressure on Apapa, Tin Can Island and PTML.

“I don’t know whether you are aware, ILT has been serving as transit route for empty containers back into mother seaports as well as exports. So in terms of ease of doing business, time and viability, the area is strategic. The journey is shorter and cheaper for importers coming from distant locations.”

Facility Clean Up: Meanwhile sources have revealed that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, are already having discussions on how to clean up the facility, even as NPA has reportedly given approval for rehabilitation work on the ILT quay apron.

 

Checks by Vanguard Maritime Report showed that the sudden full swing of activities at the terminal after a long lull has rendered its stacking areas in dire state of fitness, leaving large areas of the concrete ground broken.

Further checks revealed huge potholes in some area, while other areas are flooded with rain water, covering more than three inch the base of stacked containers. The terminal lighting system have all collapsed, leaving the place apparently without illumination at night; which according to the facility users imposes challenges on security.

The terminal’s apron quay side which is undergoing rehabilitation reportedly by barge operators is without perimeter fencing. It is not clear if the construction of a fence is part of the project.

Efforts to crosscheck with officials of the construction company proved abortive, as those questioned appeared not to have any idea.

Customs agents and freight forwarders have said with the current level of dilapidation of the infrastructure and the general state of uncleanness of the terminal, it is most unlikely that full scale port operations in terms of cargo clearance can take place without health and safety issues.

A stakeholder at the port who declined to have his identity disclosed also expressed worry about the impact of sand dredging activities within the fringe of the terminal jetty and stacking area, believed to be have reportedly shown signs of cracks due to corrosion along the terminal shores.

Commenting, a source who spoke off record said “people and properties along the shoreline are exposed to danger from activities of sand dredgers”, adding “customs operations are heavy duty operation with severe pressure on the immediate landmass. Dredging activities too close to it should not be encouraged because of the side effects.”

The sand dredgers woken office which also serves as its signboard has the name and logo of the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, inscribed on it beside the ILT main gate; even as a bystander told our reporter that their activity has been registered with NIWA.

 

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