By YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
Cargo diversion to seaports of neighbouring countries like Cameroun and Benin Republic has cost Nigeria a whopping N1 trillion annually, LEADERSHIP findings have revealed.
The loss is due to bad roads, exorbitant import duties and other excessive fees that are payable in Nigerian ports but not present in seaports of neighbouring countries.
LEADERSHIP had last week reported exclusively that N320bn congestion surcharge earlier saved by the efficiency on the seaside of the ports due to the 2006 ports reform has returned to the nation’s seaports as a result of the present inefficiency on the landside.
It was gathered that shipping companies now ask importers to pay this surcharge, even before the ship arrives on the shores of Nigeria.
Lagos ports, being the most viable of all the ports in Nigeria, account for over 80 per cent of importation into Nigeria.
Confirming our report, the president of Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol, said importers have resolved to dump the nation’s seaports for neighbouring countries due to the inefficiency and exorbitant import duty tariff at the ports.
He, however, disclosed that the country lost N1 trillion annually through cargo diversion to ports in neighbouring countries due to bad roads to Lagos ports, import duties and other charges not paid to Nigerian ports.
According to him, there is massive diversion of Nigeria-bound cargo to ports in neighbouring countries due to bad access roads to Lagos ports.
Nicole said that demurrage, terminal charges and storage fees incurred by shippers run into billions of naira daily.
He said,“There are also queue of vessels within the Lome waters awaiting call-up for berthing in Lagos ports. This will attract port congestion levy on cargo, which is no fault of the shippers (importers and exporters).
“Demurrage on containers is increasing, with no control from maritime agencies. Importers and exporters are suffering’.’
Nicol called on the contractor handling the rehabilitation of the access roads to Apapa port to expedite action to reduce problems encountered by shippers and truck owners.
“Industrialists are incurring huge expenses on haulage due to lack of access roads and they are counting more losses daily. There is no entry into Lagos ports and no access out of the ports after loading’’, the shipper said, adding that truck drivers remain on queue for several days.
He, however, commended Dangote Group, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for their assistance in rehabilitating access roads to Apapa ports.
“It should be noted that they (Dangote and Flour Mills) are industrialists going the extra mile to keep the maritime industry afloat’’, Nicol said.
He added that the export initiative of the federal government is also under threat as export goods spent several days before arriving at the ports.
To avert congestion, he suggested that the backlog of goods at the ports should be cleared.
According to him, the port congestion of the past is mounting again and may lead to prolonged litigation on who pays the charges.
Nicol advised that empty containers inside the ports be exported as a priority.
He, however, said that the association would not subscribe to the idea of moving containers released at the ports to Papalanto in Ogun, as “the cost of moving such boxes (containers) to factories in Lagos and other places will be too high.”
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