…Decries myriads of challenges faced by shippers in Nigerian seaports
The Shippers Association Lagos State has said that the alignment of major stakeholders to checkmate infractions, such as port corruption, violations of rules of engagement and enforcements, shows that government agencies have nothing to offer anymore to the trading public.
The association which spoke through its President, Rev. Jonathan Nicol in a statement in Lagos on Monday said that the development was a mark of failure adding that this alignment would be a wakeup call to all including Importers who declare something different from what was found in their boxes.
Nicol observed that “The action of freight forwarders will be total and we suggest that government should support them. It is the last hope of shipping trade in Nigeria.”
While pointing out that shippers had developed thick skin to the myriads of negative issues affecting their trade, he posited that from the day the goods arrive to when it was cleared, even after clearing, shippers lose money since empty containers cannot be received by the owners thereby forcing the shipping trade, imports and exports to suffer.
“Take a look at the port, it is dying slowly. It has never been like that. The federal government agencies are sapping shippers dry. Official and unofficial compulsory payments are made on every consignment. Trucking is another challenge. Take for instance paying N1,000,000 to Ibadan. Local trips are between 350,000 and 800,000. It is unacceptable. But what do you expect the shippers to do? Manufacturers suffer huge clearing bills to get their consignments delivered to them.
“Nigerian freight forwarders are frustrated compared with their foreign counterparts. Freight forwarders are paid crumbs by the imperial foreign freight forwarders in the guise of collapse of import adjustments policies of government. Regulators are overwhelmed with daily challenges. Trade facilitation no longer exists. Some agencies are making so much money from shippers instead of advising government to control excesses. We are sad to say that in order to hide their shame, they brandish the shippers as none complaint. Even those who do not know the origin of the advent of cargo are condemning shippers for non-compliance. Without the cargo, there will be no existing Port Managers and other stakeholders. There will be no port. Shipping will be non-existent in Nigeria.
“Shippers, importers and exporters should be respected and revered. They are nation builders, self-made individuals and progressive corporate entities. No shipper would want to abandon his cargo if cargo clearing expenses is within his budget. Clearing cargo in Nigerian ports is eight times more than the cost of the goods. Where will the shipper get extra funds for distribution to corrupt platforms existing in the ports, one of the reasons why goods are abandoned?
“The Regulators of our ports have a dual role to play. 1. Protect the interests of shippers, importers and exporters among others. 2. Make sure goods brought into the country are cleared promptly by stopping harsh government import policies. In addition, remove domestic items from prohibition list. Seizing importers goods is draconian. The import restrictions should be restructured and abolish actions that will forcibly take cargo from shippers and auctioned privately. Shippers should be encouraged.
“This has evolved to the extent that the freight forwarders, one of our primary partners, induced deliberate action as it is now, as users of port facilities want to take their fate in their hands”, he said.
While stating that government agencies were failing in their responsibilities, he noted that importers, exporters and shippers did not have a seamless method in place by government to exit their goods.
“There are trucks everywhere within and around the vicinity along the corridors to the ports. Go to Festac and Mile 2, the Marine Beach bridge was not constructed as a holding bay. As long as trucks park on top of bridges, life span of our bridges will be threatened”, he added.
The SALS President maintained that there were rifts between government agencies handling regulatory responsibilities, saying, “recently, it was revealed that there had been a forced working relationship between three government agencies, who speak the same language, for over one year now.”
“One year, looking for peaceful resolutions affecting the lives of Nigerians on economic issues without results is disheartening and a disservice to serve us.
“The dark clouds are gathering, so much discontent in the clearing sector, tempers are rising. Delaying cargo in the port is not good for anyone, especially, volatile cargo used in the soft drink Industries. One reckless handling of such cargo can have a very devastating effect on our ports. This is part of fallout of the collapse of the concession agreement of 2006, which took the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to court on entirely economic matter which is now at the Supreme Court. That action should have cleaned up the system gradually, since 2014 to date” the further said.
Nicol disclosed that the association was already discussing with her counterparts in the country even as he said that “we will support any action that will bring economic sanity within the clearing and logistics chain. A dangerous tsunami is brewing in the maritime industry.”
He stressed that the shippers demand equitable and down to earth solutions of the warring parties to embrace the part of peace for the sake of posterity noting that vessels were now leaving to other African countries to discharge their cargo especially those on Time Charter contracts.
“Reduce costs of doing business; remove all the so-called government security agencies in the port, with the exception of the Nigeria Customs Service, which is already a para-military outfit. If that is done, hold Customs responsible for any failure in the port. Since the port has been concessioned, the security of the ports should be left with the concessioners with the Nigeria Police patrolling the ports”, he submitted.
Photo: President, Shippers’ Association Lagos State, Rev. Jonathan Nicol.
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