30 June 2014

Nigeria: Ports - High Demurrage Traced to Dysfunctional Clearing System

Shipping companies have identified dysfunctional clearing system in the nation's ports as responsible for the delay in goods delivery and the attendant demurrage charges on cargos.

The shipping companies told the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), the ports regulator, at a meeting in Lagos that the demurrage charges would disappear once the clearing processes and procedures were standardised and harmonised.

Importers, who have a grace period of only five days to clear their goods on arrival at the ports, have had to pay heavily on demurrage charges imposed by both terminal operators and shipping companies.

The ports regulator had called for a meeting to address the issue, among others, on how to save importers from the demurrage being paid to terminal operators and shipping companies.

During the meeting held at the Apapa corporate office of the council, and chaired by the Director, Commercial Shipping Services, Mrs D. Shall-Holma, representatives of the shipping companies had specifically pointed accusing fingers at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies as responsible for the delay in goods clearing which end up accumulating heavy demurrage for importers.

The shipping companies were said to have said that on the average, electronic manifests are submitted to the Customs three to four days before the arrival of vessels, adding that this gives them ample opportunity to make necessary arrangement for vessel reception and break bulk.

The shipping companies also complained against the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), saying that it takes four to five days to process ship sailing certificate, and two days to confirm payments.

Other agencies of government fingered by the shipping companies for contributing to the delay in goods clearance at the ports were the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

Immigration officials were particularly accused of engaging in arm twisting tactics in a bid to extort money from crew members, adding that on mere flimsy excuse, immigration officials usually collect the seaman's books and passports of crew members only to demand for money for their return.

On the other hand, the police was accused of detaining containers at the terminals.

It was gathered that the Executive Secretary of the Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, is expected to meet with the Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service as well as Director-General of NIMASA where some of the issues raised against their agencies can be discussed amicably.

The Council is also expected to take up the issues affecting the Customs with the Customs Area Controllers.

On the complaints on the access roads around the ports, it was gathered that Bello is also expected to meet the chief executive officer of FERMA to seek its intervention in repairing the damaged portions of the port access roads as a palliative measure.

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