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Analysts say Nigeria bottlenecks will divert more cargo to Togo, Ghana, Benin in 2014

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Analysts reviewing the maritime industry in the past year and predicting the outlook for 2014, foresee that  Nigerian ports will witness a drastic drops in the number of vessels  bringing  in cargoes.

The implication they say, is that the volume of importation into the country will also witness a significant drop, as importers of containerised goods, vehicles and other products will likely divert a larger chunk of their cargoes to neighbouring ports of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.

The analysts blame this on the bureaucratic bottlenecks  brought about by the Nigerian Customs department, which end up delaying cargo clearing. The delays, which became alarming in the past weeks, since the Destination Inspection service providers handed over that responsibility to the Customs service, have created  a huge backlog of un-cleared cargoes as well as heavy congestion in the ports.

cargo-nigeriaAccording to analysts, policy inconsistency, which has increased the import duties paid on commodities like vehicles and rice, will also result to massive cargo diversion, including low importation of cars and rice in the country.

“There is high expectation that port business will boom in 2014, but with the newly introduced fiscal policy on automotives, which raised the percentage of tariff paid on imported vehicles from 20 to 70 percent, I see Nigerian cargoes being diverted to ports in the neighouring countries where it is cheaper to clear and bring in goods through the land borders”, said Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investment Limited, a clearing and forwarding company.

“If the problems already created by the new Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) that was introduced recently by Nigerian Customs Service are not handled in earnest, I also see a situation where Nigerian ports may lose some of their cargoes to other ports in the first and second quarters of this year”, he further predicted.

He observed that the ports are currently congested due to the delays caused by the inability of Customs to verify with Risk Assessment Reports (RAR) t formerly issued by destination inspection service providers with the PAAR that Customs issues now.

This he said, is because no importer would want to bring in his or her goods in the country and have the goods stuck in the ports for two or three months, piling up demurrage and storage charges to shipping companies and terminal operators.

BusinessDay checks, which were confirmed by Vicky Haastrup, executive vice chairman of ENL Consortium Limited, the operator of Terminal C and D of Apapa port in Lagos and Charles Edike, area controller of Apapa Area 1 command of Customs, revealed that Nigerian ports in 2013 lost rice imports to Benin Republic since the Federal Government imposed the 110 percent duty on rice.

Yenukume Nohoesu, managing director of Braveview Investment Limited, said that the new automotive policy on vehicles will not only lead to heavy diversion of vehicles to ports that are user friendly, but will also result to loss of government revenues, as in the case of the 110 percent levy and duty on rice.

“I see the booming of illegal business of smuggling of vehicles and rice to avert duties persisting in 2014. And there is no way the Customs we have today will be able to curb smuggling down to 100 percent”, he said.

He noted that the issue of policy inconsistency would not only lead to diversion of cargoes to Cotonou, but would also lead to smuggling and loss of jobs in Nigeria.

Anthony Nted, president of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has in a letter dated December 27, 2013 and addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, advised the Federal Government to review the current import policy on rice and vehicles. He said the review would help to reduce the smuggling of both commodities.

By:  AMAKA ANAGOR