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NPA bans consignees from dropping empty containers at ports to save losses

As part of reforms that would come with the introduction of electronic call-up system to ease truck movement in and out of Ports in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has banned consignees from taking empty containers to any port location in Lagos.

Presently, cargo owners are expected to pay close to N200,000 and above to shipping companies as Container Deposit Fund, before they would be allowed to take their goods out of the port. It is from this fund that demurrage charges (penalty) for not returning empty containers within a specified period are being deducted.

With this ban, the NPA aimed at either reducing amount or eliminating the multi-billion-naira annual loss by cargo owners to international shipping companies as demurrage. This is in addition to bringing sanity within the Apapa port corridor that has been battling with movement obstruction caused by indiscriminate parking of trucks and tankers on bridges and roads in Apapa.

Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the NPA, who disclosed this in Lagos on Wednesday morning during an interactive session with Traffic Radio, 96.1 FM, which was monitored by BusinessDay, said the authority has discovered that shipping companies are benefiting from empty containers deposit, which is the funds deposited by cargo owners before their goods would be released from the port.

According to her, consignees would going further, not be allowed to go to the port to drop empty containers, rather empty containers should be taken to the holding-bay of shipping companies, where shipping companies would now be responsible for taking them back to the port for export.

“Due to the congestion on the road, cargo owners are now losing their monies to shipping companies for not being able to return the empties within the specified window. Up to 90 percent of the time, consignees are not able to collect back their container deposit due to the gridlock,” she said.

She confirmed that shipping companies have been making multi millions of naira annually from container deposit paid by consignees.

“We started having engagement with shipping companies on this since the last two to three months. Infact, this issue is not new because it dated back to 2019 when we mandated them to put up an empty container holding-bay without which, they would be penalised,” she said.

On the planned electronic system, she said, the NPA has been able to identify about seven truck parks that meet the requirements to participate in the call-up system. These parks are located in areas like Ojota, Obanikoro, Oregun, Olowotedo-Ibafo, Amuwo-Odofin, Orile-Iganmu and Okorisan-Lekki/Epe, and they must have the capacity to sit up to 2,000 to 3,000 trucks.

Usman, who noted that impact of Apapa gridlock on port business has been unimaginable, said there has been an allegation of rent-seeking around the port corridor where truckers are mandated to pay money to traffic officials before given access into the port.

“This is why we are deploying electronic call-up to remove human intervention in the process. It will be transparent because there would be a dashboard at certain port locations to enable truckers see the movement of trucks,” she added.

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