Apapa, Tin-Can seaports yet to start full implementation of 24-hour port operations
Twenty-four days after the 30 days deadline given to the Federal Government agencies and service providers at the nation’s seaports to allow port business take place round-the-clock, the ports are yet to commence full implementation of the 24-hour port operations policy, BusinessDay learns.
It is also discovered that cargo clearance does not take place at night except in the daytime when officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies are on duty.
However, the marine side of port operation that involves discharging of vessels by terminal operators takes place round-the-clock in line with international standards.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in May this year released a new Executive Order, part of which mandated the management of Customs, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and service providers including other government agencies at the ports, to commence 24-hour operations in 30 days that elapsed on June 18.
The order was aimed at eliminating the negative impact none clearing of cargo on weekends and public holidays have on cost of doing business. It is also expected to eliminate avoidable cost in demurrage and storage charges paid to shipping companies and terminal operators for not taking delivery of their consignment as when due, which is estimated at N1 trillion annually.
“Nigeria is good at making laws but our problem is lack of enforcement. As we speak right now, there is no sign to show that ports in Lagos operate optimally at night. We know that 24-hour port operations, which is a good policy will not be feasible under the current conditions of port infrastructure,” Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investment Limited, a Lagos-based clearing and forwarding company, said.
Anakebe said the Lagos seaports (Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports) that handle over 80 percent of cargoes that come to Nigeria were currently inaccessible due to bad state of the roads leading to the port, as “the ports cannot operate under such condition because of the high risk of moving good in and out of the port.”
Anakebe, who observed that security concern around the port environment resulting from lack of adequate security infrastructure and limited power supply were the challenges of 24-hour port operation, noted that officers of Customs still resume at 9: am in the morning and close by 5: pm in the evening.
“The ports open on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) and Customs also conduct examination on Saturdays unlike before. Also, discharging of vessels by terminal operators and shipping companies, still take place at night,” Anakebe said.
He further revealed that security agencies in charge of traffic management at the ports such as men of Nigerian Police Force, Civil Defence Corps and others, constitute problems for port users by requesting for tips before allowing truckers to have access into the ports.
“We are ready and good to go. We have also put modalities in place to start full implementation of 24-hour port operations in line with the Federal Government’s newly signed Executive Order,” Uche Ejesieme, public relations officer of Tin-Can Island Customs Command, said in a telephone interview.
According to Ejesieme, the command will commence full implementation on July 14, and those Customs officers including other government agencies have agreed to always be on ground round-the-clock at the command to attend to the needs of importers and their agents.
“We have made plans to do our work on shift such that whether is going to be two shifts or otherwise, what is important is for officers to be on ground at all times to examine cargo, approve documents and release duely cleared cargoes for importers and their agents in line with the aims of the executive order,” he further said.
Ejesieme assured port users that when the 24-hour ports operation fully commenced in Tin-Can port, it would enable importers and their agents to clear their goods even on weekends without any inhibitions. This, according to him, is because executive order, does not recognise ports not operating on Saturday and Sunday unlike before the order came into effect.
Adewole Tunji, a clearing agent told our correspondent that despite the fact that terminal operators and shipping companies were on ground on public holidays in line with the 24-hour port operations, that Customs on their parts were only operating at the port gate, where already cleared cargoes were given approval by them to exit the port.
Tunji confirmed that Customs officers were not carrying out cargo inspection during the holidays and that commercial banks were also not on ground to collect import duties on cargoes from clearing agents.
Efforts made to hear from the public relations unit of Apapa Customs proved abortive as several calls put to Nkiru Nwala, public relations officer of Apapa did not go through as her phone was switched off all through Tuesday afternoon.