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New Import Policy Raises Fear For Cargo Diversion

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There are strong indications that cargoes and imports meant for Nigerian seaports may be diverted to neighbouring Benin Republic, Ghana and Togo if the federal government go on to implement its new import guidelines, LEADERSHIP has learnt.

Recall that it has been reported that Nigeria was losing 60 per cent of its imports to Benin Republic while the importers have vowed to divert another 40 per cent if the new import guidelines known as Palletisation policy is implemented.

Also, the mandatory enforcement of pallets on containerised goods will attract the presence of the plant quarantine officers in the port to regulate the Implementation of International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and additional cost, which will increase the process and cost to importer/licensed customs agents.

In a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP, yesterday, the President, Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol said palletisation would increase cost of importing raw materials into the country. He said instead of shippers to increase the cost, they would rather divert to a more attractive and cost efficient seaports in neighbouring countries.

He said: “Lots of cargoes would go to seaport of Cotonou because of the palletisation policy. Having very difficult import adjustment policy in Nigeria is what we don’t understand how and why at this time. Importation of arm didn’t start today in this country, it’s not new in Nigeria, so, for them to come with a blanket palettisation scheme and knowing full well that not all cargoes can be palletised.”

Nicol, who sympathized with local manufacturers, said the policy will increase numbers of containers used for importation and increase freight cost. “Shippers might go up to Cotonou to discharge their goods and ferry it from Cotonou to Nigeria. Our sympathy goes to the local manufacturing companies.

“Why government is trying to revamp the manufacturing sector they are killing them through palletisation scheme. We are not against it but there are some consignment that will not go well with pallet and Shippers will go on paying more money for containers therefore, we are making shipping lines and terminal operators richer at the expense of manufacturers and that is the tragedy,’’ he said.

Also speaking, a member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of SALS, Nicodemus Odolo said implementation of palletisation policy will worsened already congested road to the nation’s seaport. Odolo said, “We are having congestion now because of the problem with the port access road. Now by the time they begin implementation of the palletization policy, cargo will be doubled and where is the space?

“The road to move cargo in and out is not there and the shipping lines will increase their charges because presently a lot of ships are still waiting to berth at the port because turnaround time is still poor. So, it is going to be a very bad situation next year in terms of congestion and cost for shippers. Government is oppressing us and with this we may have to go and explore other countries where we have better friendly policies to do business.

“Nigerian importers today are the ones developing Benin Republics because of unfriendly policies of government,” he said. “It simply means an increase in cargo. If you are bringing in one container before, it will turn to two containers and that means the freight and other clearing cost has to be double. So that is the effect on the shippers. It is not for our good. So we are not in support of it. We have been bringing cargoes that are palletized but not all cargoes are needed to be palletized,” Odolo added.

President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero described the policy as faulty as it takes Nigeria backward, arguing that there is nowhere in the world with such practice.

Amiwero said the implication will mean more cost of doing business at the ports for importers. He added that pallets will create extra cost for shippers who do not need them, adding that it will delay and discourage shipment into Nigerian Ports.



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