Importers have incurred huge demurrage and storage charges running into several millions of naira as several cargoes are trapped at the Lagos seaports over recurring server failures of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The server failure has led to delay in cargo clearance at the Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports as licenced agents and importers cannot clear their cargoes from the port, thereby, attracting huge demurrage charges from shipping companies and storage charges from terminal operators.
This development has led to mounting calls for the sack of customs service providers; Messrs Webb Fontaine, for alleged incompetence and delaying genuine trade at the Nigerian ports.
Speaking on this development at the weekend, the coordinator of the Apapa chapter of Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Comrade Frank Aliakor, stated that the server failures peaked recently and that for three days in a week, the service was down and no transactions could be done.
“There has been fluctuations in the server, Webb Fontaine has been enjoying monopoly. There is no other competitor or service provider, and this problem of server failure is hampering trade and causing delays. The clearing agents and importers are paying demurrages and this is not supposed to be so. We expect the server system to work 24hours so that trade would be facilitated.
“Sometimes, we discover that even at the Customs Processing Centre (CPC), the server does not work. Also at the terminals and bonded terminals, it fails, so what do we do? Sometimes, the downtime is up to five hours and the officers would sit down doing nothing. Sometimes, for a whole day, officers would sit down doing nothing.”
“Webfontane needs to upgrade their systems, without this nothing can be done, if they fail to do this, there are other companies that want to come into the business and do it better, nobody is above the law, it shouldn’t be a monopoly,” Aliakor lamented.
The ANLCA task force chairman in Apapa, noted that at the end of the day, nobody is compensating the agent or the importer for the several hours of delays and accrued demurrage from shipping companies and terminal operators.
“This week (last week), we experienced server failures, even right now as I speak with you, since Tuesday, Wednesday and today Thursday,” he emphasised.
At the Tin Can Island Port, the trend has also been the same as clearing agents raised alarm over several hours of down time resulting from no work.
Vice chairman of ANLCA, Tin Can chapter, chief Mike Okolichi, said stakeholders have been experiencing downtime in their operations due to server failure.
Public relations officer of the chapter, Alhaji Idowu Owoade also confirmed the situation to our correspondent.
He said: “The server is fluctuating, I have a job that was to be released, but we could not get it released because of server failure from the customs. ”