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Government Policies, Customs Tariff Fuelling Cargo Diversion – NPA MD

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The managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman has bemoaned government policies and high Customs duty as factors responsible for cargo diversion out of Nigerian seaports.

Speaking last week at the just concluded third Maritime Stakeholders Interactive Forum held in Lagos, the NPA MD said cargoes diverted to neighbouring seaports are mostly of banned items and those of higher Customs tariff.

Her words, “Somebody talked about cargo diversion rocking Nigeria’s port, but in reality, those cargoes being diverted are items that are banned or have high tariff in Nigeria. Items that are banned are typically diverted to our neighbouring countries and then smuggled into Nigeria because it is difficult for anybody to bring in banned items through Nigeria’s ports.

She also attributed shallow draft of Nigerian seaports as another challenge that fuel diversion. “Another challenge that leads to cargo diversion in Nigeria has to do with the absence of deep seaports,” she said. “Very large vessels cannot come and berth at our ports because depth of draft of about 17 metres does not exist in Nigerian waterways.

“What we have in Nigeria is a maximum of 13 metres, so very large vessels cannot come into our ports and berth. Due to this, these very large vessels go to our neighbouring countries to berth, and then smaller vessels are brought in to offload them.

“I heard somebody asking questions as to why we cannot dredge our ports further to accommodate these very large vessels. As we all know, our ports are river ports and their channels cannot be dredged further from 13 metres to 17 metres. The design and depths of our quays are within those limits of the 13 metres draft.“What we need to do is to facilitate and conclude the deep seaports being proposed within a timely manner. That is what will bring our ports into a competitive state within the sub-region. Our ports are currently not competitive because the trend now is to bring in very large vessels in-view of economy of scale. So, it’s not an issue of further dredging that is making our ports uncompetitive, it’s an issue of having deep seaports.”

She however warned that Nigeria’s ports are currently running out of space due to increasing numbers of overtime cargoes in the various port terminal. She further urged the minister of transportation to begin discussion with the management of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) over the prompt removal of the huge numbers of overtime cargoes at the ports.

“We currently have huge volumes of overtime cargoes in our ports terminals. The last time an auction was done was in early 2015. We have written severally to the NCS over these overtime cargoes. The Customs mentioned that they will need to pull the overtime cargoes from the port terminals to Ikorodu for auction, but we have told them that there is what is called ‘On the spot auction’.

“It is important for the Customs to go and auction on the spot because the port terminals are filled to the brim with overtime cargoes, and there are no more space for business. This constitute a very huge challenge to our port system and I will appeal to the Honourable Minister to help prevail on the NCS over this.”

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