Importers to Save N1.7bn Annually as FG Stops Containers’ Deposit

Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello

By Eromosele Abiodun

The federal government yesterday announced plans to stop the N1.7 billion being paid by shippers to shipping companies annually as containers’ deposit before the end of the first quarter of next year.

The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, stated this on the sideline of the meeting of heads in Lagos.

Container-deposit, also known as a deposit-refund system, is a monetary deposit paid by importers on containers at the point of sale.

When the container is returned to an authorised redemption centre, the deposit is partly or fully refunded to the redeemer.

Bello told reporters that shippers pay N1.7 billion yearly as containers’ deposit, which he said, has added to the cost of doing business in the country.

Bello who blamed lack of holding bays and the gridlock at the port premises for the issue said the council was already in talks with National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NAICON) to get insurance for the shippers to cover the cost of containers.

According to him, “Shippers pay N120,000 per container as the container deposit; that is about N1.7 billion every year and this is adding to the cost of doing business and this is not the fault of the shipper but because he cannot return the container within the specified time; the roads are clogged, the holding bays are not working; So, how can he bear that risks?

“We want indemnity system and we have already talked with NAICON; there must be insurance penetration. We could extend the marine insurance to cover containers. And by the first quarter of next year there will not be payment of containers’ deposit,” he said.

Earlier, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, had said that the deep blue project expected to address Nigeria’s maritime security issues should be operational latest by October.

“Exactly one month ago, we commenced the meeting of the heads of maritime agencies to deliberate on a common area of challenges. Today, one of the issues discussed is the port community system. We have agreed to set up a committee that will look into the operationality of the port community system.

“We also discussed the 24 hours operation of our ports. We observed that port efficiency and effectiveness cannot be achieved without 24 hours port operation.

We have also agreed that at the next meeting, we will have an action plan which will come with deliverables and key performance indicator to see how our ports will run on a 24 hours basis.

“The issue of multi-modal means of cargo evacuation was also discussed, and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has been mandated to ensure professionalism in the movement of cargoes by barges,“ he said.

Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, also said the NPA was working with the presidential task team on Apapa gridlock to identify their jurisdiction in order to avoid overlapping functions.

“I’m curious as to the specific areas where there has been a lack of cooperation between NPA and the presidential task force. What we sought to do with PTF is to identify that they have jurisdiction with the port access roads but not the ports. If there are any overlapping functions they would take actions to curb them. However, it is important for PTF to understand that the role of port operations still domiciles with the Nigerian Ports Authority,” she said.

She added that no port system can be efficient with multimodal transport system, noting that the traffic gridlock that characterises Nigerian port access roads will continue until there are sufficient linkages with railways, inland waterways and piping to complement the road mode.

“No matter what PTF does to address the traffic gridlock, if all port stakeholders and the government do not recognise the need to deploy multimodal transport system, the gridlock would remain,” Usman said.

The NPA boss also noted that part of the deliberations during the meeting centered on the possibility of using barges to move containers of some port users, especially those importing thousands of containers and willing to convey them via barges to Onitsha.