CONGESTION: Ministerial c’tte recommends tough times for laggards in cargo clearance process

Once a container has been booked for examination, any party/parties found responsible for delay in the clearance process, would, henceforth, bear the cost of rent and demurrage incurred by the consignment.
Where any government official by act of commission or omission, in the course of examination contributes to delay, a formal report should be made to the relevant authority for appropriate disciplinary action.
These were part of the recommendations in the report submitted by the committee set up by the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, penultimate Friday to address and proffer solutions to the problem of congestion at the Lagos ports.
The ministerial committee of port stakeholders chaired by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Engr. David Omonibeke, had been given three days to critically look into issues that led to congestion at the ports, with a view to proffering immediate and long term solutions.

The committee, however, submitted its report last Friday to the Transport Minister at the Conference Room, NPA Western Ports Headquarters, Apapa, Lagos.
The committee’s report was extensively discussed by port stakeholders in a closed-door meeting, which the Transport Minister presided, and was, thereafter, relayed as resolutions by the Minister.
Part of the resolutions includes that, once an agent has booked a container for examination, the terminal operator should position the container in the night of the day of booking, the next day or not later than 36 hours after booking; and that the working hours for examination will henceforth, be between the hours of 9:00am and 3:00pm daily including Sundays and public holidays.
“All parties in the examination chain must ensure that they are present for examination, while the Nigeria Customs Service should maintain a timetable for officers scheduled for examination,” the Transport Minister stated.
“Except by an order of court, any container examined but declared for detention by any security agency, shall be formally reported to the Nigeria Customs Service by the security agency issuing the detention order,” Umar also declared.

It was also decided that once a terminal has a backlog more than it can handle, the next vessel on the queue should be stemmed to the terminal next to it; that in the event the next terminal cannot handle the vessel, the vessel should be stemmed to an off-dock terminal; and that the NPA should coordinate these processes.
Terminal operators were also encouraged to adopt the use of barges, where applicable, for the transfer of containers to their off-dock terminals in order to fasttrack cargo delivery, while the NPA and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) were urged to streamline and harmonise charges for the use of off-dock terminals under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transport, as part of the resolutions.
It was also agreed that the terminal layout should be given prominence by the terminal operators in order to facilitate easy examination and allow for movement and identification of containers; and that terminal operators ensure that cargo handling equipment is made readily available for multiple examinations and cargo delivery.
Freight forwarding associations were not left out in the resolutions as they were ordered to stop collecting fees from their members inside the port premises to avoid delay of cargoes.

The Transport Minister had also agreed, as recommended by the committee, that he (the Transport Minister) would request the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance to “direct the Comptroller-General of Customs to consider allowing for re-routing of containers (from scanning to physical examination) to ease congestion depending on the exigency of the situation” and will collaborate with the two Ministers to “ensure that Service Providers for Destination Inspection (Cotecna and Global Scan) synchronize their activities and complement each other for effective service delivery.”
All these resolutions, according to the Transport Minister, take immediate effect from the day they were declared.

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