An importer and President of the Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekazi, has said that the nation’s seaports, especially container terminals, are operating well below capacity and should not transfer long-standing containers to offdock facilities especially the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal (IKLT) in Lagos.
Speaking against the backdrop of clamour by some clearing agents at Ikorodu for the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to transfer long-standing containers from the main port to IKLT, Onyekazi said such transfer is unnecessary since there is “ample space in the main ports”.
“Congestion in the terminals has always been cited as the reason for transfer of containers but the present economic downturn has resulted in less than 40% yard occupancy for most terminal operators; effectively undermining the reason to transfer overtime cargo to Ikorodu,” he said.
The NIIA President said the maritime sector suffered a huge blow in 2016 with ever increasing foreign exchange rates and a sharp decline in cargo volume.
According to him, “Businesses, banks and social institutions surrounding the ports have closed down as an extension of the reduction in business faced by the ports.
“A recent statement by the Senate in November 2016 highlighted the fact that the containers that have already been transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal have been abandoned with goods worth billions of naira rotting away daily; alluding to the fact that inadequate maintenance measures exist for the containers there. Therefore, moving even more containers will result in a sharper decline in the condition of containers and cargo, and lead to wastage.”
He said moving overtime containers can also be seen as a means to boycott terminal operational procedures as owners of the containers will look to avoid paying their accrued charges but rather intercept or obtain their cargo at reduced or no cost at all; thereby encouraging importers to abandon their cargo at the port with the aim of facilitating movement to Ikorodu in order to avoid charges.
This, he argues, “undermines the integrity of terminal operators’ authority and processes leading to complete loss of revenue to terminal operators despite handling costs incurred and fulfilled financial obligations to the government over the years on such containers.”
He said the bid to transfer overtime cargo to Ikorodu Light Terminal will only result in huge additional cost burden to government given that the logistics cost of moving the containers from various terminals to Ikorodu will be borne by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
“This move will result in additional handling of containers which comes with increased cost of doing business for terminal operators; as well as likely claims from damages from handling during such a transfer.
“There exists also the risk of loss of cargo to the consignee/importer due to allegations of diversion of cargo in transit from previous transfers and pilfering due to insecurity at Ikorodu terminal.
“The extra cost to be incurred to carry out the transfer can be avoided, especially in times like these when all sectors should be focused on saving, and not wasting public funds.
“Combined with the recession, this move will only serve to compound the woes of the already suffering maritime sector; it will not bring additional business or progress whatsoever,” he said.
Onyekazi added that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is more certain of collecting appropriate import duties on the containers at the main ports.