Concerned stakeholders, including clearing agents and industrialists in the country have called for complete reforms in the maritime sector in order to restore its lost glory.
The National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), in a letter to the Presidency, complained that there are too many obstacles to the ease of doing business that have resulted in lengthy, cumbersome procedure and high cost of doing business in the ports.
This is coming as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), also urged the Federal Government to introduce reforms that will bring about efficiency and productivity at the ports.
The letter signed by its President, Lucky Amiwero, said the collapse of the cargo scanners made physical inspection/customs examination laborious, thereby constituting delays and attendant high cost, destruction of goods.Besides, the absence of the scanners exposed the ports to the influx of arms, ammunition, and unwholesome goods as well as the introduction of the pallet policy.
He said government agencies’ intervention in cargo clearance such that the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and the Maritime Police block and stop containers outside the ports resulted in double handling of imports, and detrimental to the ease of doing business.
On the collapsed ports access roads, he said the situation resulted to additional transportation costs of almost 500 per cent as a result of inaccessibility to the ports, which warranted demurrage/rent on both empty and loaded containers.
The access roads, he said, required palliative measures to make for easy evacuation of cargoes, saying this could be covered from part of the seven per cent collected for the development of the port as provided in section 32(a) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act.
Besides, he said the charges of storage and the duplication of charges by shipping companies highly increase the cost of doing business, delays, increase demurrage and rent, where demurrage is almost N20,000 per container per day for shipping company and 12,000 for rent by terminal per day. This, among other numerous charges makes our port the most expensive in the world.
“In line with global best practice, there is no agency that is responsible for coordinating and resolving disputes, as procedures and processes, local laws, and trade conventions are not complied with, which is associated with delays impunity and imposition of process and procedure by various government agencies.
“Also, all government agencies operate independently on cost and procedures, which necessitate the increase of cost and delays in the release of cargo, their procedures are independent of each other in contrast to one stop shop methodology,” he said.Considering the effects of these anomalies on the economy, Amiwero said: “We request for total reforms to address the multi-layers of problems by engaging experts vast in policy of maritime and international trade with the mandate to enforce the operation procedural laws, regulations and total removal of obstacles to trading across borders in our ports.”
The Director-General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said research on Maritime Ports Reform reveals that billions of naira is lost annually due to inefficiencies and shortcomings in the nation’s ports.He noted that port users and operators faced major challenges and bottlenecks due to the deplorable state of roads leading to the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports as well as other infrastructure and technology breakdown.
To enhance efficiency at the ports, he said there was a need to adopt and enforce an Integrated Advance Cargo and Customs Clearance System with scanning, and tracking (SST) capabilities.Yusuf also urged the government to implement the National Trade Data Centre project that would be readily accessible to all agencies, operators and stakeholders at all times to eliminate inherent abuses.
The LCCI boss also argued that the full implementation of a Single Window Platform is a vital reform measure with the potential to create immediate positive impact in the ports.He called for improved private sector investment toward building and managing ports infrastructure such as roads, rail and truck parks with online call-up systems.
Yusuf further appealed to shipping companies to establish adequate holding bay for empty containers to decongest the ports.He noted that from the Chamber’s research, the port could double its 2016 non-oil volume of 1.1 million 20-foot equivalent unit container transit over the period of 2018 and 2019, if the reform measures were implemented.