For the Federal Government to have increased revenue from international trade, it may need to explore alternatives to the ports in Lagos State, stakeholders have said.
At a national dialogue session organised by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, themed ‘Unlocking shipping gridlock at the ports: Stakeholders’ initiative’, stakeholders in the shipping and maritime sector said they were concerned about the capacity utilisation of the ports.
According to them, with the importation of about 80 million metric tonnes of goods into the country through the ports, the facilities are grossly inadequate with its attendant problems.
The problems, they said included inadequate capacity, demurrage by shipping companies, unnecessary delay in Pre Arrival Assessment Report, issuance and wrong computation as well as the traffic congestion which has become a major constraint.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, said there was the need for the country to take immediate action to unlock the gridlock at the ports through proper and effective automation of the cargo release process.
Bello also called for drastic reduction in the number of containers channelled to physical examination and the relocation of tank farms away from the port access routes as well as provision of roadworthy trucks for cargo evacuation.
He stressed that efforts should be geared towards implementing a 24-hour port and cargo clearance operations with the provision of adequate security for the logistics chain as well as provision of adequate empty container holding bays by shipping companies.
He said, “Various solutions have been proffered and specific recommendations proposed over the years for addressing the perennial shipping gridlock in our ports. We sincerely believe that it is time for drastic actions to be taken unlock the potential of our ports to indeed be a catalyst towards the nation’s growth and development.
“There is a need for the integration and harmonisation of the Customs platform to interface with other relevant stakeholders’ in the maritime sector, customs reorientation as trade facilitators in addition to revenue generation, sincerity in the interpretation of government circulars, shippers’ education on the use of ICT and useful web-based trade tools, as well as increased government support by way of friendly transparent and consistent policies.”
The President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, canvassed the implementation of extant laws that would aid import clearance procedure, terminal and shipping company operations.
He said the high cost and cumbersome clearance process at the ports encourage Nigerian importers to patronise other West African ports.
Similarly, the Executive Director, Intrass Limited, Mr. Femi Awogbade, urged the Federel Government to revisit PAAR by ensuring that inspectors are made liable for wrong contents.
He added that time accountability in port operations should also be encouraged so that resources would not be wasted.
The National President of NACCIMA, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, said the dialogue was needed to address the problems at the ports.
Abubakar, represented by NACCIMA’s Director-General, Dr. John Isemede, stated that it was in line with the association’s advocacy role, adding that “NACCIMA is keen on finding a lasting solution to these issues as experienced at the ports by exporters and importers in particular and the public in general.”
According to him, the Federal Government has a responsibility in ensuring that key conventions guiding port operations are adopted and implemented.
He added that the business environment was not conducive for business operations, thereby making the nation lose its competitiveness to neighbouring countries.
He said the association, at the end of the meeting, would come up with a communiqué that would assist the Federal Government in consolidating on its on-going task of further proffering permanent solution to the challenges being faced by importers and exporters at the ports.