By Samson Echenim
- NSC, terminal operators, urge Customs to act
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and seaport terminal operators have again called on the Nigeria Customs Service to fix scanners lying comatose at the country’s seaports.
Speaking to business a.m. on the sidelines of the 2019 stakeholders appreciation night, Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC said the 100 percent physical examination on cargoes currently being done by the Customs at the seaports was hindering smooth and seamless trade at the ports and making Nigerian ports far less competitive than ports of neighbouring countries.
Also, Vicky Hastrup, chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), who noted that the annual Nigerian Shippers Council stakeholders appreciation night had become a major rallying point for maritime operators to accelerate the growth of the sector, took her spot at the event on Thursday to express the pains of port concessionaires concerning the dead scanners and the perennially gridlocked Apapa and Tin Can Island ports access roads in Lagos.
Several cargo scanning machines inherited from Destination Inspection (DI) service providers are currently lying in comatose at Nigerian ports. The country’s customs service has said the scanners were inherited in bad shape and could cost a fortune to repair. However, no efforts have been made by the service to repair just one of the scanners, or acquire a new one.
Bello said the way imports are processed at the port, with Customs doing physical examination of containers remained a potential source of corruption at the port, insisting that automation of port processes remained the way to go.
“It takes five minutes to examine a container and pass it when we have scanners. It is five hours when we do physical examination. So, which one is better? At every stage there has to be some level of automation to reduce physical contacts when doing business at the port. Human interface or contact is a source of corruption and delay,” Bello said.
The Shippers Council boss also said the council would keep pushing for digitalisation of all other aspects of port operations.
He said, “Physical interference also breeds inefficiency. We want a situation where there is central payment system on the platform. A shipper can be at his office and clear his cargoes at the port. The Federal Government has embraced automation. Ultimately, we are going to have the cargo tracking note (CTN) and the international single window, which is a one-stop shop where all these transactions can be conducted. It is open and transparent, so that there will be no leakages of government revenue; there will be no cheating and no under-declaration and no concealment of cargo.”
Speaking earlier at the event, Hastrup, STOAN chairman, also called on the federal government to fix the scanners at the ports across the country, noting that lack of scanners at the port and poor port roads had eroded gains of port reforms embarked upon in 2006.
She, however, applauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s push to fix the railway and roads.
Hastrup, who is also the executive vicechairman of ENL Consortium, concessionaire of Terminals C and D at Apapa Port said, “I want to use this opportunity to call the attention of the Federal Government to the challenges affecting the ports. The maritime industry has such a huge potential to generate revenue for the federal government if the right policies are made and enforced. So, the government must accord it full attention.
“Cargo clearing process at our ports, where containers are checked one by one is causing a lot of issues at the ports. There are no scanners and this is not good for a modern port. The Customs have also not auctioned overtime cargoes.
“This is causing congestion at the port and it does not serve the best interest of the government. The NSC should engage the Customs to find a way to auction them. Some cargoes have stayed for five years at the ports.
“We have infrastructural challenges. Bad road has become the single biggest problem at Lagos ports and the story is the same at other ports, dilapidated roads linking to the ports
“Seaports access roads which have remained in permanent terrible state in the last 10 years had eroded the gains of port reforms in Nigeria, which we all worked so hard to achieve. I am aware that the federal government is working hard to fix roads. I am seeing the efforts of the honourable minister of transport to fix the rails, but for now, port users are suffering due to bad roads.”
Frontpage October 21, 2019