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Businesses grieve over soaring cost, poor services at inland ports

Importers and manufacturers are now counting losses due to the high cost of doing business and poor service delivery at inland dry ports, popularly known as bonded terminals or inland container depots (ICDs).

Built for the sole aim of easing or averting congestion at the main port terminals, many bonded terminals in Nigeria have failed to meet up with the purpose of their existence as containers also get trapped in their premises.

Consequently, importers that have their containers transferred to these terminals end up experiencing delays that result in payment of extra cost as demurrage to shipping companies. This is such that an importer could pay as much as N3 million per container to cover transfer charges and demurrage to shipping companies due to the longer dwell time of the container.

BusinessDay understands that Nigeria is yet to leverage the existence of inland ports to deal with the issue of port congestion, as ships still wait for 21 days in the anchorage before having access into the port to berth and discharge cargoes.

Read Also: Cargo movement to river, inland ports, maritime security top agenda for maritime agencies

Ibrahim Tanko, national coordinator of the 100 percent Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), says some bonded terminals in Nigeria do not have sufficient equipment and infrastructure to enable container examination in their premises.

“Our containers are being dropped on flooded grounds for examination, especially when it rains, and we must put on a rain boot to be able to access some of these terminals. This has led to some of the content of these containers being damaged, most especially those in cartons, thereby resulting in loss for the importer,” he explains.

According to Tanko, some of these bonded terminals do not have forklifts to drop containers for Customs examination, and in most cases, it takes weeks to drop containers for examination, thereby increasing the demurrages paid by importers to shipping companies.

While noting that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) had mandated bonded terminal owners to put an end to collection of transfer charges, he says importers still pay transfer charges at these terminals.

Giving an insight into the problems associated with doing business at inland ports, Tony Anakebe, a maritime analyst, says it takes time for containers to be assigned from the mother port to inland ports.

“It also takes time for bonded terminal owners to move containers to their terminals when ships are allocated to them due to challenges with gridlock on the port road. When they finally do, they charge transfer charges to cargoes, which is an extra cost to the importer. And if the barge or truck used in transferring the container encounters a problem on the way, it will take longer and incur extra charges for the importer,” he states.

Citing an example, he says if a container is allocated to Denca Services, it will hire barges or trucks to move the container to its terminal, and this takes weeks or months.

The delay in moving the containers to the inland ports leads to payment of demurrages by the importer, he states, adding that some of the terminals are mostly located in inaccessible areas due to bad roads.

“Bonded terminals still collect transfer charges from importers because the last container my company cleared at Denca in Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos, we paid over N170,000 as transfer charges, which is an added cost to the cost of transporting the container to the importer’s warehouse,” he says.

Recall that in 2020, the NSC under the immediate past leadership abolished the collection of transfer and storage charges by bonded terminal owners to streamline the cost of doing business.

Interestingly, containers transferred to bonded terminals come with bills such as transfer charges to cover the cost of transporting the container from the mother port to the bounded terminal where the owner can carry out Customs’ clearing processes before the container can be taken to the owner’s warehouse.

In some cases, importers also pay storage charges for containers not lifted directly from the ship but allowed to overstay the rent-free days in the mother port.

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