By Godfrey Bivbere
Stakeholders in the cargo clearing services have claimed that the preference of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, for 100 per cent examination instead of using scanners is affecting cargo dwell time at the nation’s ports.
They also lamented the impact of inadequate cargo handling equipment at terminal operators’ facilities as contributing to the harsh operating conditions of the port system.
Some stakeholders who spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue said with 100 per cent examination, Customs will not be able to perform examination at all times; stressing that the extra period such cargo spend at the port attracts more charges and levies.
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report, Deputy National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Adeniyi Ajayi, said terminal operators do not have enough cargo handling equipment.
Ajayi pointed out that the Council have been complaining about this for a long time but that no one seems to be interested.
The Managing Director, Kay Tosh Agencies Ltd, also said that in the long run it is the consumer that is left to bear the brunt in form of higher cost of goods.
Similarly, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Kamany Marine Services Limited, Charles Okorefe, agreed with the above, noting that the activities of both the Customs and terminal operators are adding to the inflation in the economy.
Okorefe explained that the terminal operators use the same equipment for positioning of containers for examination as well as for discharging of vessels that call at their facility.
According to him, “Many of the terminal operators, knowingly or unknowingly, are refusing to do what they are supposed to do by way of equipping their terminal with the requisite cargo handling equipment.
“Take for instance, when vessels arrival at some terminals, abandon the cargo delivery process and take their cargo handling equipment to the ship side to be discharging ships so that they can avoid payment of demurrage themselves but they will not waive demurrage for the importer that they have abandoned in their terminal and force them to pay rent.
“Like you said the government seems to be impervious to all of these and it is telling negatively on the economy because now the prices of everything are going up. If an importer imports cargo and the thing dwells more than necessary and he is paying demurrage and rents at the port, of cause, he will pass on that cost to the consumers (you and I), we are the final consumers and we must pay.
“So head or tail, it is the consumer that loses; it is Nigerians that are losing. I think the government really has to do something about it.
“If you begin with equipment for Customs examination which is the beginning of the whole thing, you will discover that we still do not have scanners in our ports but every time we hear about the amount of money that the government has earmarked or has approved for the purchase of the scanners.
“Why are these scanners not being used to ease the process of cargo examination at the port? Now we still do 100 per cent examination which is manual and you understand what that means.
“We are in raining season now, what that means is that once it rains, cargo examination stops because there is no way you are going to discharge somebody’s imported cargo under the rain, especially when it has to do with goods that have to do with cartoons and things like that.
“You can only do that with goods that are not whether sensitive, then the scanners work under any condition whether rain or not. So the question is why do government not consider it essential to install these scanners at the ports? It is a major deficit,” he noted.