Eight years after the Nigerian port system was reformed by the Federal Government, the process of handling and clearing cargo at the port is yet to fully witness the gains of such transformation despite the fact that cargo handling operations were ceded to private terminal operators. The dividend of port reform is still being limited by issues around damage, loss and especially delay of cargo at the port.
Damage on cargo mostly occurs when the wrong equipment is used to handle a particular cargo. Take overloading of container beyond the specified capacity, for instance, which results to poor handling of the container. This is because the terminal operator would ignorantly end up using the wrong equipment to handle such container and the cargo would be badly damaged.
BusinessDay check reveals that training of cargo handlers and dockworkers is very important if the issue of cargo damage must be addressed in Nigerian port. This is because an ignorant cargo handler may deploy the wrong equipment while discharging a cargo, which will result to cargo damage and loss to the importer.
Multiple handling of cargo subjects it to damage, especially for transhipment cargoes that are handled severally from ports to port, said Kunle Folarin, president, Port Consultative Council (PCC), adding that “any cargo that is exposed to transhipment is exposed to damage and loss”.
Folarin harped on the need for standardisation of trade procedures in Nigerian port, adding that there was need to also ensure compliance as well as enforcement to reduce cargo damage and loss.
Similarly, Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has blamed inconsistent government policies, improper documentation by port users and under-declaration of cargo tonnage by importers as factors hampering service delivery at the nation’s seaports.
Improper cargo storage system and poor packaging of cargo, especially those arriving Nigeria from other third world countries, contribute to cargo damage, said Vicky Haastrup, STOAN chairman, who is also the executive vice chairman of ENL Consortium, operators of Terminals C and D of the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa.
Haastrup, while delivering a paper on ‘Cargo Exposure to Risks of Damage, Loss and Delay at Nigerian Ports and Terminals’ at a one-day roundtable discussion organised by the Cargo Defence Fund (CDF) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said that most of the vessels bringing cargo into Nigeria are old while their gears develop problems during discharge operation.
“Under-declaration is also part of the reasons why cargoes are damaged. A situation where an importer declares a container that weighs 60 tonnes as 50 tonnes result to cargo damage because the terminal operator will deploy a 50-tonne capacity equipment to lift a 60-tonne container,” she explained.
On cargo clearance delay, she blamed inconsistency of fiscal policy which, according to her, made it difficult for some importers who imported cargo in November 2013 using the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) issued by the old destination inspection regime handled by service providers to take delivery of their consignments.
“Importers who imported goods after Customs changed from RAR to Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports (PAAR) still have their cargoes in the terminals and it was recently that the Customs comptroller general, Abdullahi Dikko Inde, gave additional two weeks for the cargoes to be cleared,” she said, explaining that such anomalies created delays in the logistics chain and were responsible for port congestion.
Haastrup also called for the harmonisation of ship inspection procedures by government agencies at the port in order to minimise vessel delays and reduce the cost of doing business.
On the other hand, Nigerian port environs are surrounded by industries and oil tank farm, which leads to traffic congestion in the port area. This affects port operation such that it makes movement of cargoes in and out of the port difficult, which contributes to delay in cargo delivery to the importers’ warehouse.
Moreover, consignments are exposed to damage in Nigeria given the bad state of roads and trucks that move cargoes in and out of the port. Here, cargoes that have been cleared out of the port get stuck on the road when the truck upturns, apparently due to bad roads and poor state of the truck.
Also, making use of only one mode of transportation for the movement of cargo in and out of the port is an issue to tackle if there must be efficiency at the port. There is need for full resuscitation of the cargo haulage operations of the nation’s rail service beyond the capacity of moving about 80 containers from Lagos to Kaduna and Kano every month.
By: Uzoamaka Anagor