..As more importers decry cargo damage at terminals
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) may have deployed a team for the purpose of scrutinizing the terminals, so as to confirm the veracity of stakeholders’ assertions that their goods were regularly damaged with no compensation paid.
The new NPA Port Manager, Lagos Ports Complex, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu indicated this while reacting to the allegation bordering on the issue of terminal efficiency, particularly from the point of efficiency of cargo handling at the terminals at the premier port.
“Nigerian Ports Authority will always insist on best practices as port operations is a global phenomenon”, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu stated, reiterating the NPA’s Executive Management position and commitment to excellent service delivery, even as she stressed that comfort will always be offered to ships, crew, cargo and the business class.
“We will keep monitoring terminals and we shall not encourage any disposition that will tarnish the image of the Nigerian ports, especially in cargo handling.
“This is because, if a shipper is not sure that his goods will be safe and secure in your port, then, they will never patronize you. We cannot afford to send out negative signals”, the Apapa Port Manager stated, assuring that management would leave no stone unturned to ensure that every awkward situation is redressed, especially from every terminal that may probably be lagging behind.
In spite of the assurances, which include redressing the alleged ugly situation, importers and their agents were neither amused nor pacified as some of them openly begged that more space must be created for the terminal operators in addition to acquisition of more handling plants, as being the major options capable of saving them time and ensuring that their goods remain protected from constant damage.
Harping on this, an agent whose main area of operation is bulk cargo spoke anonymously to NOMMA lamenting that when most of the terminal operators began operations, standard was very high until patronage surged, perhaps, beyond available space.
“For ENL for instance, I will tell you without mincing words that they have fallen below expectation. This is happening because they have that notion that importers do not have a second option being the only bulk cargo receiver in Apapa and being in charge of the largest terminal.
“So, no matter how they treat you, you must come back. If not, I do not see how a terminal like that which receives the highest number of break bulks in the country does not have machines- folk lift and other machineries.
“Year in year out, it might interest you to know that ENL still uses forklifts that they got from NPA as at the time of the concession. And these machines break down at intervals. As we speak now, after you pay so much as terminal handling charges, you go into the port and see where they merge four ‘receivers’ to one folk lift!
“It will then take you months to get your goods because sometimes, each receiver has like 400 or 500 trailers to load and if they merge you with another receiver that has like cargo for 200 trailers; you can then work out the average per day. On the average, it could be two trucks per receiver a day! And on this one month, they are receiving terminal charges, demurrage, rent even though you are not the cause of the delay!
“As for (cargo) damage, do not go there! Because it is heartbreaking when you go to ENL and see what they do to people’s cargo because they feel we do not have a second option.
“Take a trip there; you will see the marks of the tyres of forklifts on people’s cargoes. Sometimes, it is like a forklift operator purposely climbs a cargo! There are often, cargoes scattered all over the place and they tell you they do not have enough GSI-that is, the people they hire to tidy up or repack scattered cargo etc.
“At the end of the day, we spend between N5,000 and N10,000 paying our own labour to repack these cargoes and it is heartbreaking!
“The worst is the dirty environment where they operate. I can remember very well while ENL wasn’t in charge; they cleaned those warehouses on weekly basis but now, I can tell you authoritatively that in the past two years, nobody has cleaned the warehouses.
“When you go to other terminals, when they are short of equipment, they would allow us to bring our own. They will allow us to bring in our own forklifts and use. When we had issues with Five Star Logistics, they had most of their machineries down. We brought in our machines and they waived charges for us. The ENL does not have machines and will not also let you bring it in”, the agent further explained.
Speaking in the same vein, another stakeholder who also deals on bulk cargo, Chief Metu of Mevano Nigeria Limited said it was perhaps needless blaming the ENL as the major culprit was the inadequacy of storage space noting that goods have exceeded available space.
“The issue is that it is not only ENL, it has to do with most of the terminals. We normally deal on bulk cargo and some of these terminal operators do not have enough storage facilities.
“At times, you get to the terminal and you see your cargo, you are sad to see so many imported iron, etc. and they use it and block so many places. At times, they use chemicals and block some sheds, they do not have enough storage shades, most times our cargoes and they will have to store it outside. Water will start damaging it and most of those cargoes are not water friendly.
“Once water touches the MDF board for example, it starts damaging. Sometimes, at ENL, we incur damages worth millions of Naira! They do not pay for the damage. If you write insurance, you will just keep writing. God knows, they don’t respond. It is not easy and so also with many people in Josephdam TinCan terminal where we had the same issues. We have pictures too.
“They stored everybody’s cargo outside for rain to beat them and they do not pay. We have so many cases. We reported and wrote letters. We write to them and copy (Nigerian) Shipper’s Council. But, Shipper’s Council will tell you: “we will get to them”. I don’t know if they collaborate with them, I don’t know! And we are paying the storage charges! Storage charges are for them to store the cargo and make sure nothing happens to it! We also pay demurrages!
“Most times, they won’t have plants or machines to load the cargo. We may have trucks and they will not have their forklift to load. If you have twenty trucks, at the end of the day, they load three or four. They divert all their forklifts to the ship side. We that are receiving now, we are supposed to load but at the end of the day, they will still charge you demurrage.
“On the average, I have one thousand pallets that is about sixty plus trucks. Ordinarily, if I have trucks, that job will be done in three or four days; you will vacate and you will not pay demurrage. But now, I will tell you that most times, it takes one month, two months and the way they handle the cargo at times, they damage it on board and they won’t pay (compensation). They will store it outside; they won’t cover it very well. It is not funny at all”, Chief Metu lamenting in a tone that expressly showed he truly loves the ENL.
Believing that NOMMA investigation has focused largely on the importers, we tilted to a revered freight forwarder and Chairman NAGAFF, Apapa Chapter, Chief Ndubuisi Uzoegbo who not only collaborated what our respondents said but also somehow, attempted to give reasons behind it.
“The concessionaires have not been handling these issues the way it should. These guys now see themselves as a small god. When there is an issue and you write to them and say that you are their customer and that you have gotten a damage of N5 million or N6 million, the ENL will form a blind eye. They will keep pushing you around for months, years to see if you will get tired of it and throw it up”, he said, even as highlighted that the ENL became a major issue, not because they don’t like his face, but because the issue involved was bulk cargo where the ENL majors on.
“It is mostly ENL, because the issue is about open cargo. They are not efficient, they do not have equipment and they do not use professionals to work.
“They employ some quack and when they bring in cargo from the ship, they scatter it all over the place. So, it is really appalling and something needs to be done about that. We have been talking to them. I have one issue of a claim I have been pursuing since January; over N6 million damages on goods.
“We have complained to (Nigerian) Shipper’s Council and at times, they are very slow in action. Mostly, they are slow in action and have not really done anything on their part. They can always play the mediating role but nothing has really come out of their side and that it why these people are doing this. Because if the Shippers’ Council had made their position known and taken a stand, the terminal operators and the shipping companies in Nigeria would change and these things will not be happening again.
“APMT is equally the same. For the APMT, their own is that they are the owners of Nigeria, a no go area. They can wake up in the morning, make up one story and tell you it is a company policy that freight forwarders must abide by it. Just like what is going on now, when they wake up and say that customs should not examine a particular container. Something like that happened recently …I think, sometimes last week.
“I know we will withdraw services for some hours, to see if they can comply but they are just there playing mind games, nothing is happening.
“When it comes to the terminal operators, they are zero; all they care about is their pay, their pocket because they are the ones enjoying this problem we have. They are building houses, making money from Nigerians while it is affecting Nigerian economy in the negative way. No one terminal is totally effective but some are better than the other. The Tincan is a little better but you cannot compare Apapa. Apapa is worse!” he concluded.
***Many of those whose goods were damaged have gone to the Nigerian Shippers Council. You need to know what the Council told them. And also what the ENL told NOMMA.
To be continued…
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