Nigerian Shippers Council Has Failed Us, Port Operators Lament

…As 4,000 Empty Containers Allegedly Stranded At TICT

Port operators have expressed disappointment at the Nigerian Shippers Council, saying that the Council has not done enough to ameliorate the challenges of stakeholders in face of congestion, alleged extortion from shipping companies and terminal operators.

At a breakfast meeting with DAILY TREND in Lagos on Tuesday, the operators alleged that there is port congestion at the TinCan Island Container Terminal (TICT) one of the port concessionaires at Tin Can Port where empty containers are stacked on seven layers.

Speaking with our correspondent, Deputy Chairman, Freight Forwarders Trade Group of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Las Alli Shobande said that the Shippers Councilhave not helped matters and the agency have no hold on the shipping companies and terminal operators.

He said that the problem of the port is not the dilapidated access roads, but rather it is the unconventional activity of shipping companies and terminal operators.

According to the LCCI chieftain, the main cause of the congestion in the ports is that vessels come in with 1,000 containers or 2,000 containers and they go back empty, thereby forcing container holding bay charges on Nigerians.

He advised that the concerned regulatory agencies should ensure that vessels that do not pick empty containers and exports are not allowed to sail out of the ports.

“The Shippers Council is not doing enough because the problem inside the port is not being tackled yet.The Shippers Council as far as I am concerned have failed us, with due respect to the guys there, they are there because they are making so much noise and hype in order to justify their role in the business, otherwise they have not helped matters, they have no hold on the shipping companies and terminal operators.

Even when government says they are regulatory, they have no legal mussle”
Shobande advised that the solution to the port congestion is to read the shipping companies a riot act and issue an ultimatum to within one month move empties out of the port. 

He said once the port is free, there would not be queues on the road. He added that as it is, even if the road is reconstructed, the long queue would still be there because trucks cannot enter the port.

Speaking on the activities of the TICT, Shobande alleged that the concessionaire is restricting truckers from returning empty containers, while subjecting them to payment of heavy fines as much as N400,000. 

 “At a meeting I attended recently, we were told that they have 4,000 containers in TICT alone that are stocked from export to empties. Empty containers are now being stacked 7 high”

“If you go to TICT today, their is a restriction, at their terminal at Second gate, a neon sign is there giving you reasons why certain shipping line containers cannot enter the port, they should not tell us not to come in, why is there restrictions if their is vessels taking the empties”

Also speaking at the breakfast meeting with DAILY TREND, Chairman of Tin Can Island Chapter of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Segun Oduntan said all the shipping companies in Nigeria are culpable of the crime of not taking back their empty containers away from Nigerian ports.

According to him, the shipping companies have not innovated or add value in the port processes.

“What is the Shippers Council really doing to regulate these people?Government must come out and do something about the Nigeria Shippers Council, the Vice President flying into Lagos in helicopter would not solve the problems”

“The Presidential Task Force are alien to our challenges, you can go and set up ten thousand task forces, it would not solve anything, the problem is beyond what you find on the road, the problem is inside the port, and if you are not operating inside the port you cannot understand”

“The Nigeria Customs have gone way ahead of terminal operators and shipping lines.Customs have the Asycuda, NICIS 2, among others. But we still have some shipping companies that are still doing manual documentation and processing of invoice, they will determine when you get your cargo by rating you several days ahead”

Prince Segun Oduntan lamented that the port congestion was affecting clearing agents by 90%.
He lamented that cargoes hitherto cleared within five days are now taking one month to exit from the port.

According to Odunatan, the port congestion “Has reduced our customer patronage because people are now leaving for Onne Port, some people prefer to take their cargo by air now, some are even shying away and prefer to take their cargo to neighboring ports. Our work efficiency has drastically reduced”

“Whatever affects the importer affects us, the importers are paying exorbitantly, for example, if you want to take a 20 foot container of any particular consignment to Ikeja, in the past we pay N70,000, but now it is N400,000, who pays for this? It is the man on the streets”

“It is affecting the importer and it affects us also because whatever affects the head affects the body”
The ANLCA Chairman lamented that the annual subscriptions paid by licensed customs agents to the Nigeria Customs service is now out of place as there is no corresponding jobs to handle.

He said “The payments are out of place, we are paying to Customs N300,000 annually which is not supposed to be, NPA is also collecting from us, we are paying to both the Finance Ministry and Transport Ministry”

“They have now brought out the Practitioners Operations Fees (POF) what is POF? we are not practicing anything now because there is chaos in the system.Where we got it wrong is that our Council is not supposed to be regulated by the government, it is supposed to be a professional Council”

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