Inefficiencies of Customs, other govt. agencies blamed for delay in cargo clearance

Director, Human Resources, Administration and Commercial, Port & Cargo Handling Services, Muhammed Bulangu has accused the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies operating at the nation’s ports for contributing to delays in cargo clearance.

Bulangu, who was reacting to the call by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Executive Secretary, Hassan Bello who visited Terminal `C’ of the Tin-Can Island Port, Lagos on Thursday on the terminal to improve on cargo dwell time said it is not in the interest of the terminal operator to delay cargo at port.

The delay, he said is caused by inefficiency in the processes being implemented by Customs and other government agencies. He added that occasionally importers sometimes delay the clearance of their cargo until they get a buyer for it.

According to him, cargo release does not rest with the operator but Customs and other government agencies operating at the port. He noted that the shorter the dwell time, the more money the terminal would make.

“Concerning the dwell time of cargo, the port is a transit area. For us, we don’t like the cargo to stay beyond the agreed free period. We want the cargo to go for new ones to come because that is what pays us.

“Where there is efficiency, there shouldn’t be storage charges. But the inefficiency is something that has to be shared with so many organizations because of the processes that have been put in place by the various government agencies and even the importers themselves. Some of them don’t have where to keep the cargo; they look for a buyer before they come forward to clear their cargo,” he said.

He added that the delay in examining containers already positioned which sometimes required that the containers be repositioned has also created a lot of overhead cost to the terminal.

“There is a limit to space we can provide for examination. We can’t provide space to examine all the containers at the same time. That is why sometimes, you will hear complaints that I have booked my container for examination, it has not been positioned.

“If we positioned 150 containers and Customs examines 80, what do we do?  Those 80 may not be delivered that day, so we have to take them back into the stack and in matters of operation, every activity costs money. If there are 100 people that want their container examined the following day, it means you will not be able to bring the 100. Sometimes, you might not even be able to examine anyone that has been booked of late for examination. These are some of the challenges we face which many may not know of but these are the realities,” he said.

Bulangu also chided importers for lack of transparency and honesty in their import declarations saying that the insincerity of the importers is what gave room to what the government agencies are doing.

“The average importer will either import contraband, engage in concealment or under-declare. That is why the Customs area is a beehive of activities; negotiations here, negotiations there, because people have something to hide,” he said.

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