By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Hassan Bello on Wednesday took a tour of the ports, specifically; ENL Terminal, a general cargo terminal at the Apapa port, and PTML Terminal, a roll-on, roll-off vehicle terminal at Tin Can Island Port.
Bello called on terminal operators to give incentives to importers and freight forwarders in order to motivate them come out and clear their cargoes out of the port, despite the lockdown declared by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While speaking at the PTML Terminal, the Shippers Council boss noted that the agency has prevailed on the commercial banks in Apapa to begin operations in order to allow freight forwarders assessment and payment of duty for Customs purposes.
DAILY TREND NEWS correspondent who visited the port yesterday noted that the banks; Zenith Bank, UBA, GTB bank have commenced operations.
The Council had earlier provided buses at various locations around Lagos to convey port users to the port, in view of the lockdown and restriction of movement as measures to curtail spread of the Coronavirus.
Bello called on all importers and their agents to come forward and take delivery of their consignments, adding that currently, there are port terminals that 95% filled up.
“We want all the Shippers to use this opportunity to come and clear their goods from the ports, there is no better time than now, and we expect you as terminal operators to incentivise the Shippers”
“As for the freight forwarders, the traffic is light, come and convey your cargo away from the port. I’m always scared about the congestion on both sides that will happen if cargo is not taken out of the port, right now, we have terminals with 95 percent occupancy rate”
Bello told his host that the agency is equally applying the same measure at Port Harcourt Port and speaking with Gov Nyesom Wike on the need to allow importers come out and take delivery of cargoes from ports.
He said “There should be movement of cargoes, cargo should not be subject to interstate restrictions, cargo should reach its destination, if not, the manufacturing companies would also shut down and this would have great consequences for Nigerian economy.
He promised to speak with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to also make some waivers for the stakeholders.
Responding, Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Mr. Asconio Russo said the company has been operational and intend to continue to be operational in line with the directives issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He told the Shippers Council boss that the terminal is currently operating with 30% of its staff strength because workers could not come to the port.
He pleaded with the Shippers Council to extend its bus facilities to dockworkers cleaners and other workers at the port, and not just for freight forwarders alone.
He said that, “I’m very glad that the federal government Hs acknowledged the port as a critical infrastructure which need to be open all the time especially in a difficult times like this. There is no where in the world even the most affected countries ports and critical logistics service were never closed.
“So, am also very happy to hear and appreciate the Shippers Council for the role taken to facilitate access to the ports and also for the banks to come on, so that we can facilitate the payment of duties and this are very critical steps because on our own side, we are ready to work.”
Russo however lamented that the fourteen days quarantine for ships which was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari was affecting terminal operators because vessels are now trapped at sea, unable to berth.
He said that if the vessels does not berth, the essence of facilitating movement to the port and the banks opening for operations would be a waste, because there would be no cargo to clear.
Also speaking at the visit to the ENL Terminal at the Apapa port, Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, Princess Vicky Haastrup lamented that the terminal is already full to the brim with 85 per cent yard space already occupied.
She attributed this to the fact that freight forwarders and importers were not coming forward to take delivery of their consignments.
She noted that at the moment, five vessels are waiting at berth, ready to discharge their contents.
“The freight forwarders are not coming because some of them have Customs problems. I have 5 ships at the berth but the terminal is full. We are ready to operate but the people are not coming,” she said