Shippers and clearing agents have commended the federal government’s partial amendment to the import, export guidelines also known as Palletisation Policy which they argued would cost them N21.6 billion ($60 million) annually if implemented.
The amendment follows calls by shippers, clearing agents, operators and importers in the maritime sector to the federal government to adjust the policy.
In a bid to curb the intending revenue loss, the Federal Ministry of Finance in a memo with reference number F/194687/EBECS/T/28 sent to clearing agents on 12th February, 2018 confirmed that the modification was sequel to series of complaints from stakeholders.
LEADERSHIP recall that stakeholders have argued that implementation of the palletization policy will cost Nigerian importers about $60 million annually. This was also confirmed by the managing director of CMA CGM, a leading container carrier operating in Nigeria, Mr. Todd Rives.
President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, who was elated by the new development by the government, said the palletisation policy holds no benefit for the country and will also further breed corruption at the port.
“The policy if implemented to the fullest will be difficult for shippers because we are an import-dependent nation. Palletisation will encourage corruption at the ports, as a good chunk of the internally generated revenue in the port go into private pockets. Palletisation should not be our priority, rather let us look at how we can improve services at the ports.”
A copy of the memo cited by LEADERSHIP from the ministry was tagged: “Amendment to the Addendum on Palletisation Policy of Containerized Goods In the 2017 Revised Import Guidelines Procedures and Documentation Requirements Under the Destination Inspection Scheme in Nigeria.”
The memo signed by the director, Home Finance, Olubunmi Siyanbola, quoted the minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adesoun, as saying that the grace period given up to 31st March, 2018 for exemption from palletisation policy of goods for which Form ‘M’ had already been established prior to the effective date of 1st January, 2018 for full implementation of the policy still remains in force.
The memo reads: “Sequel to the series of complaints and requests received from the Trading Public in respect of the palletisatlon policy contained in the 2017 Revised Import Guidelines, the Addendum to the guidelines of 22nd December 2017 is hereby amended to further strengthen our Ease of Doing Business drive.
“Consequently, all containerised cargoes coming into Nigeria should comply with: a) International standards for packing/stuffing and loading into containers and specific packing and stacking standards prescribed by the original manufacturer of the product. Dead-pile loading, or loading without pallets of containerized cargoes, is acceptable provided it conform to the criteria outlined in paragraphs 2 (a b) above.
“With the exception of used automobiles and heavy machinery, any loosely packed new or used items without manufacturers loading and packing prescription should be packed in crates or cartons a-top pallets accordingly. Furthermore, it is advised that all containerized cargoes should be loaded neatly in a manner that will promote safety in handling and facilitate speedy examination and clearance at the ports by the Nigeria Customs Service.
“Failure to comply with the above provisions designed for seamless implementation of the palletization policy, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) shall invoke sanctions as prescribed in the Addendum to the 2017 Revised Import Guidelines issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
“Note that the grace period given up to 31‘ March, 2018 for exemption from palletization policy of goods for which Form ‘M’ had already been established prior to the effective date of 1st January, 2018 for full implementation of the policy still remains in force,” the new directive read in part.
Also speaking, the president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Increase Uche, said the policy posed a threat to importers and the entire industry and therefore needed an urgent reversal. He said: “Palletisation is a global shipping phenomenon. But Nigeria is not ripe to incorporate that in our shipping laws because of the low volume of cargoes.
“We don’t have vessels. The scanners are not working. You will discover that the ports’ access roads are in a very sorry state and the ports are not efficient. In fact, there are many issues beckoning on the government to have a rethink, because cargoes that are meant for Nigeria are now being diverted to neighbouring countries.
“There will also be reduced use of containers, as people might resort to cars, buses and trucks to bring in cargoes. Nigeria will suffer depletion of foreign reserve, if palletisation is allowed to continue. This is because cargoes to be freighted in one container will now be split into two or three, and importers will need to pay three times the original cost of freight, automatically affecting our foreign reserve.”
President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said the extra cost would have eaten deep into the nation’s foreign reserve and discouraged shipment into Nigerian ports. He alleged that the policy was introduced because of non-functional scanners. He urged the Nigeria Customs Service and the federal government to fix the equipment and stop frustrating business through physical inspection of cargoes.
The President, Shippers Association in Lagos State (SALS), Jonathan Nicol, urged the government to suspend the policy, saying, “If government continues with it, shippers will suffer. And the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports will be high.” He expressed concern that the government could lose cargoes to the ports of neighbouring countries, noting that some shippers have already left Nigeria as a result of the directive.’’