Custom Agents: Cost of Transporting Cargo Fuelling Diversion

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Eromosele Abiodun

The increase in transport cost in Nigerian ports that started two years ago before the difficulty of trucks and persons in accessing the ports is encourages the diversion of cargo to neighbouring West African Ports, custom agents in the country have said. The situation has been worsened by delay being suffered due to gridlock on the access roads to the Lagos ports.

The National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the umbrella body of custom agents in Nigeria, stated this in a petition to President Muhamadu Buhari on the need to move out the backlog of cargo from Apapa to Lily Pond, (Tincan 2) off dock facilities to ease the congestion in Apapa
NCMDLCA in the petition signed by its National President, Mr Lucky Amiwero, said the cost of transporting a 20ft container from Tincan/Apapa ports to Alaba International Market in Lagos, has increased from N120,000 to N400,000 and 40ft container at the rate of N700,000, from N250,000 previously.

The agents added that the cost of transporting a 20ft container from Tincan/Apapa to Kaduna has increased from N500,000 to N900,000, while it cost N1 million to transport a 40ft container from N600,000 previously.

They also stated that it costs between N1.4 million and N1.5 million to transport a 40ft container from Tincan/Apapa to Kano also in the North West and Yola in the North East respectively.

Amiwero, also said transporting a 20ft container from Tincan/Apapa to Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the South-east of Nigeria, now cost N550,000 from N250,000, while importers and agents pay N750,000 to transport a 40ft container to Onitsha.

According to him, “After clearance the returned container deposit gets consumed on the top of the trucks, due to inability of the truck owners/drivers to off load the empty containers back to the empty container deport in the Ports. The turn round time of trucks and containers movement is limited, as a result of weeks and months trucks spend to assess the ports in Lagos.”

He called on the federal government to urgently address the difficulty trucks and persons experience in accessing Tincan Island and Apapa ports, the lengthy and cumbersome procedures on the clearance of goods which results to the mounting of cargo back log in Lagos ports.

On the cause of the cargo backlog he said: “The gridlock has assumed an alarming proportion with serious delays running into weeks/ months for trucks to access and exit the ports, which results to, additional cost to transport owners on the number of days the truck stays on the high- way before accessing the ports.”

He added: “The contract of carriage by sea (United Nation Convention on Carriage of goods by sea (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 19 of 2005 assigned liability of the carrier from the time of Loading at the port of Loading during the carriage and at the port of discharge by handing over the goods to an authority (NPA) or third party (Terminal Operators) the goods must be handed over to the importer Article 4(1, 2(a-(i-ii b-i-ii-iii) of the Act.”

“In line with the provision of the Act, carriage of goods, offloading and delivery is the sole responsibility of the shipping companies/ NPA-terminal operators who are conveyer of the goods (carrier/shipping company) and first receiver of the goods(NPA-terminal operators) and finally delivers the goods to the importer to conclude the contract entered into.”

“The total cost of port inefficiency and the present mismanagement of back log of cargo as a result of the gridlock, is transferred to the Importer who pays the following: high cost of demurrage charge on containers by shipping companies, due to delays in the port for weeks/months by gridlock and port inefficiency, high rent of goods paid to terminal operators due to delays of gridlock and port inefficiency.

“High transport cost from the port of Tincan/Apapa, which has increased and sometimes more than the import duty and consumption of container deposit as a result of keeping the empty containers on the truck for weeks/months. All associated cost of Port inefficiency and cargo back log is paid by only the importer/ licensed customs agents, they stated.