Customs agents in the country have called on the federal government to avoid litigation from international shipping companies by reversing the directive for vessels to be diverted to the Eastern Ports to ease congestion at Lagos ports.
Rather, the agents urged the federal government to utiliSe the empty space at kirikiri lighter Port to reduce the present congestion in Lagos Ports.
In a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, made available to THISDAY, the agents stated that most of the vacant areas converted to terminal in the Kirikiri Lighter Port area, were identified during the Port congestion in 2001, by the Special Committee on Action Plan for Clearing Cargo Back Log, which eventually assisted in decongesting Lagos port in 2001.
The President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), the umbrella body of customs agents in the country, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, in the petition, said Kiririri Lighter Port has four empty terminals that can accommodate fifteen (15,000) full loaded containers, which will ease the congestion in Lagos and shift some of the pressure from Apapa Tincan to Kirikiri Port area.
According to him, “This will eliminate the possible litigation that will be generated from the international community and import trading community for deviating Lagos bound cargos to other Port, which have serious legal and financial implication, in terms of the restricted diversion clause in the contract of carriage (Bill of Lading).
“The following are empty terminal that are laying idle, which was used in 2001 Port congestion and can still be utilized to clear the Cargo back log in Lagos Port by redeeming the country’s image and save the trading community from litigation, clearance and logistic complexities associated with deviation: Brawl Phase 1, 200 containers capacity, Baco Liner, 4000 container capacity, kirikiri 2, 3000 container capacity and Kirikiri 3, 2000 container capacity.”
On the need to eliminate international litigation on the deviation of Lagos bound cargoes to other ports, he stated, “The doctrine of deviation is the “agreed route” is identified from the contract of carriage as evidenced by the Bill of Lading the Port of origin and destination defines the route, and deviation is a departure from the agreed route to usual route which amount to serious breach.
“We wish to state here that measure should be taken not to put more pressure on the trading community but to look for possible ways to solved the problems with experts, who are ready to give their service for the nation to remedy the situation in our ports.”
Amiwero added, “Lagos Port congestion has backlog of cargo, which is held up as a result of accessing Apapa and Tincan Island Port and other logistic issues that constitute the long stay of cargo and ships in Lagos Port. “The state of emergency is to wave the complexity of the lease agreement with the empty terminal owners at kirikiri Lighter Port and the cargo traffic elements on the concession agreement with concessioners,
“This is to enable the faster movement of more containers from the wet Ports within Lagos by barges to the Kirikiri Lighter Port, which will eventually prevent international and local litigation on the deviating of cargos to other ports, which is not port of destination in contract of carriage.”
The customs agents added that part of the seven per cent, the port development levy being collected by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be utilised to create navigable channels and berthing facilities, “so as to move cargos from the wet Port to the Kirikiri Lighter Port, which will help to ease the pressure from gridlock axis, thereby avoiding the litigation for deviating cargos destined for Lagos Ports to other ports.”