The long dwell time of cargo at Nigerian seaports has become a definite not only to efficiency but to port operation, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively reveal.
Investigations carried out at the ports in Lagos namely the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) and the Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) both in Apapa revealed that importers and agents take up to 21 days before taking their containers out of the port.
Investigation further revealed that the two major factors responsible for the high dwell time is poor clearing process, graft and low storage charges.
“Many importers and agents are not worried when their containers stay long at the port terminals because storage charges are low,” a Customs officer at LPC told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY even as he urged terminal operators to make it unattractive for use of the port facilities for storage.
“Once those who leave containers for too long at the port are punished for doing so, every other issue will be addressed,” he stated.
In addition to long container dwell time, poor transport infrastructure around the ports such as narrow exit gates and multiple agencies are among others have been identified as major factors responsible for creating bottlenecks at the ports.
According to concerned stakeholders, some clearing agents allegedly use port terminals as warehouses pending when they complete their long clearing process with Customs, thereby compounding congestion at the ports.
A maritime economist, Dr. Wilson Adeshina, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY recently that cheap storage rates encourage the use of port facilities for storage.
Investigation carried out by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that containers are allowed to sit free of charge for the first three days of their arrival at the port while a paltry $4.2 (N672) is charged per day for the next nine days by the terminal operators at both ports. The storage charge is however progressive as it rises to N4,400 after the first twelve days of arrival and to N6,000 per day after another nine days.
“The argument is simple. There is a proven link between the storage rate level and the dwell time at the port; the higher the storage, the lower the dwell time and vice versa. Low storage charges encourage long dwell time which may lead to port congestion,” Adeshina said.
Further checks by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that it costs an average of N25,000 per day to store one TEU at a commercial warehouse outside the port environment in Apapa while the storage cost of similar container in Ikeja is about N35,000 per day.
After an extensive study of other ports, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively reveal that storage charges at Nigerian ports rank lowest among their peers in the world. At Mombassa Port in Kenya, the first four days of the container arrival is storage free while a charge of $30 (N4,800) per day is applied for the next three days; Gothenberg Port, Sweden grants free storage charge for the first three days of the container arrival and applies storage charge of $15 for another three days while Port Elizabeth, New York/New Jersey in the United States of America has the first four days of arrival as storage free and charges $136 per day subsequently. Sydney Port, Australia charges $80 per day after an initial rent free period of three days.
An importer, Chief Afred Egbunnike, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that importers and agents abandon their containers at the port for a long time because they are looking for money to clear the goods. He also said that cumbersome clearing process at the port coupled with alleged extortion by government officials make it impossible to clear consignments in good time from the port.
The Chief Executive Officer of a maritime firm who spoke with journalists on condition of anonymity advised the federal government to investigate thoroughly reasons why some agents prefer to leave their goods at the terminals instead of opting for a warehouse outside the ports.
The source said: “I can tell you without any fear of contradictions that the agents and customers have discovered that it is cheaper for them to use the terminals. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government through the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) to transfer long staying cargo to Customs Bonded facilities for auction.”
According to the chief executive officer, there is also need to revisit the issue of multiple agencies at the port.
“There are multiple agencies at the ports. After leaving the terminals, containers are held up at the exit points. This is uncalled for and unfortunate. Government should eradicate these agencies from the exit gate. Relevant agencies should be compelled to work 24 hours in the interest of our Ports and Nigeria’s economy generally,” said the source.
Analysts believe that failure to address the long dwell time and low storage charges at the ports will is capable of reversing the gains of port reform.