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Nigerian seaports are the least efficient in West Africa

Wednesday, 16 May 2018 | 16:00

Imported cargoes stay longer days in Nigerian seaports before being taken to importers’ warehouses, compared to other competing seaports in four different countries in the West African sub-region.

By implication, it becomes more time consuming, cumbersome and expensive for an importer to bring in consignment through any Nigerian seaport, but much cheaper and faster to clear similar consignment, if brought by an importer in other competing seaports in West Africa.Therefore, importers using seaports like the ones in Nigeria where cargo dwells longer than necessary, pay more as demurrage to shipping companies and storage charges to terminal owners for not taking delivery of their consignments as and when due.

Recently, two surveys conducted by Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organisation (ALCO), a sub-regional intergovernmental organisation that promotes development, reveals that in 2010, it took a minimum of 21 days to clear a consignment and take delivery of cargo from Port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; 24 days from Port of Tema, Ghana; 18 days from Lome Port, Togo; 19 days from Port of Cotonou, Benin Republic and 20 days from Apapa Port, Nigeria.However, statistics provided by ALCO in a latest survey conducted in 2016, revealed that while other seaports in West African sub-region have been able to significantly reduce the number of days cargo dwell at their ports, the number of days in Nigerian port, has gone up.

Currently, cargo dwells in Port of Abidjan for 11 days; 15 days in Port of Tema; nine days in Lome Port; 14 days in Port of Cotonou and 22 days in Apapa Port. Reacting to this, Jonathan Nicole, President Shippers’ Association of Lagos, who confirmed that Nigerian importers spend as long as 21-22 days in clearing goods from the port, pointed to the need to reduce cargo dwell time in Nigerian seaports to two days (48 hours), to help reduce the cost of doing business at the port.

According to him, Customs officers and all other service providers that work from 9am to 5pm, need to put mechanism in place to be available 24/7 in order to attend to importers and their agents, and they can achieve this by running 12-hourly shift on daily basis.
“If port service providers operate 24/7, Nigerian seaports would become user-friendly and more efficient and the dwell time of cargo would reduce. This will also ensure faster turnaround time for ships calling the ports,” Nicole said.

For instance, in Nigerian ports, an importer of 20 feet container is expected to get five days demurrage free from shipping companies and to pay daily charges of N2,850 for 6-10 days; N4, 400 for 11-24 days and N6, 600 for 25 days and above.

Presenting a paper recently in Lagos recently on, ‘Trade Barriers along Abidjan- Lagos Corridor,’ Moustapha Gnankambary, permanent secretary of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) Task Force, who blamed existence of multiple government agencies for delay in cargo clearance at the ports, said that the inability to fast track cargo clearance, reduces the ability of the West African national economies to attract investment, create jobs, wealth and improve the standard of the living of the people.

Gnankambary, who pointed to the fact that cargo clearance delay has caused intra-regional trade in West African countries to remain very poor at just 10 to 20 percent, also said that governments of member states also lose huge revenue to low trade growth in the region.

“Nigerian importers prefer ports in the neighbouring countries due to the unfriendly business environment in the country. Customs documentation and clearance processes have remained the same and largely manual,” lamented Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investment Limited, a clearing and forwarding company in Lagos ports.

Anakebe said that all the containers coming into the port is subjected to 100 percent physical examination due to non-utilisation of the faulty state of the multi-billion Naira scanners at the various port terminals. “This poses serious threat to smooth movement of goods and also increases cost of doing business as importers experience man-hour loss over Customs’ use of manual cargo inspection procedure to examine goods in Nigerian ports.”

Anakebe added that the use of automated clearing system such as scanners has the capacity to fast track cargo clearance at the ports.
Source: Business Day Online

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