The Federal Government has condemned the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for allowing over 6,000 abandoned and overtime containers to litter the nation’s seaports, especially at Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, and obstructing ease of doing business at the port.
Speaking in Lagos on Wednesday, Adegboyega Oyetola, minister of Marine and Blue Economy, made the condemnation during his visit to the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as part of his ongoing maiden visit to the agencies under his ministry.
Oyetola expressed worries that the 6,000 abandoned and overtime containers are presently occupying ample spaces at the nation’s seaport terminals without having any impact on the nation’s economy.
He promised to engage the management of the Nigeria Customs Service towards finding lasting solutions to the issue of overtime containers to decongest the port and create space for fresh business.
“We have overtime cargoes that have been in the port since 2011, particularly in Tin-Can and Apapa Ports have about 6,000 abandoned cargoes. I want to believe that it is likely to happen in other ports. There must be a time frame by which a cargo can stay otherwise declared abandoned,” he said.
According to him, the Ministry will also engage Customs on the issue of 100 percent physical examination, which delays cargo clearance and add demurrage as well as storage costs to importers.
“We will encourage Customs to use scanners to reduce delay in cargo clearance. We will pursue the establishment of Single Window through the Port Community System,” he said.
Pointing out that the nation’s seaports especially the Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports are very old, Oyetola said his management will pursue the establishment of new ports by replicating the Lekki Deep Seaport model in several places.
“My concept of port development is Public Private Partnership because government do not have to own or run the port wholly. A lot of revenue can be generated by partnering with private operators,” Oyetola said.
On his part, Rotimi Anifowose, director of Planning for the NSC, said the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) by the Port Standing Task Team, has sanitised Joint Boarding of Vessel, Joint Cargo Examination and Operation Free the Port Corridor.
“The activities of the team saved the Nigerian economy an average vessel demurrage of $20,000 per day between 2021 and 2022. This ultimately translated to the sum of $12,350,000 which is equivalent to N5.4 billion using 2022 official exchange rate,” he said.
He, however, called the Minister’s attention to the need to expedite action on the proposed national fleet, which is to be wholly private-sector driven and is expected to address the challenges of low national tonnage capacity, loss of shipping jobs and loss of freight earnings to foreign vessels.
He also called for the amendment of the Nigerian Shippers Council Act to institute effective port economic regulation and empower the Council to work effectively.
Earlier in his welcome address, Emmanuel Jime, executive secretary of the NSC, said the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy was created in recognition of the very strategic importance of creating fundamental developments to the nation’s economy.
He said the Shippers’ Council makes policies that drive the industry, adding that the Council is an agency that can assist the government in ensuring that Nigeria becomes a maritime hub in the West and Central African sub-region.