By DAPO OLAWUNI
Maritime stakeholders, including importers and licensed customs agents have raised a fresh alarm to the Federal Government over increased vandalisation of imported vehicles at ports and terminals in Nigerian seaports.
Wharf Rats are unknown port labour workers who perpetrate pilfering of cargoes and vandalisation of vehicles, containers and other imported vehicles cargoes.
Findings by DAILY TREND NEWS also revealed that, apart from the wharf rats at Nigerian ports, most of the vehicles are vandalised at Cotonou Port before the ship arrives Nigeria.
Fresh concerns were raised at one of the biggest Roll -On Roll Off vehicle terminal in Nigeria; PTML Terminal and Grimaldi Shipping Lines.
Stakeholders at the terminal alleged that components of imported vehicles were looted inside the terminal, especially those vehicles that are bound for the Mile 2 offdock Terminal of PTML.
A vehicle importer, David Okanlawon alleged that his vehicle, a Toyota Camry imported from the United States of America (USA) and discharged at the PTML terminal had all its component looted inside the terminal.
According to him, the vehicle battery, air condition compressor, side mirror, extra tyres among others, were all pilfered within 72 days that the vehicle spent in the terminal.
Okanlawon who said the vehicle was discharged from MV HOEGH XIAMEN on the 28th March 2020 said he was surprised that vehicles could still be pilfered after terminals were concessions to private operators.
He said, “My woes started on 28th of March, 2020 when my vehicle was discharged at PTML terminal. It was the second day the federal government begin enforcement of lockdown so, the clearing agent that was supposed to clear the vehicle out of the terminal was unable to access the ports.
“But, after the lockdown was relaxed in Lagos and he went to the port to clear the vehicle, an invoice of N353,990 was raised with N269,600 slammed on me as demmurage for the 72 days the vehicles spent in their terminal.”
Okanlawon who has a car mart in port Harcourt said he was surprised that despite paying huge amount on demmurage as charged by the shipping line, his vehicle was still pilfered to that extent.
“I never knew Nigeria seaport has a terrible security architecture like this because vital components in the vehicle were pilfered, the battery, compressor, side mirrors and even some components of the engine were stolen.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, Comrade Ayokunle Sulaiman, Public Relations Officer of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at PTML Terminal confirmed that vehicles were still being vandalised at PTML, especially any Mile 2 bound vehicles.
Speaking, he said “Sometimes the management would tell you that it was vandalised while on transit or that it was vandalised abroad.
We experience this between Tin Can and Mile 2”
“Whenever this happens, we put up a petition, and their investigation would now reveal the reasons why the vehicles were vandalised” he said
Sulaiman stated that wharf rats (port thieves) practice is still happening at PTML, as well as other terminals; Ports and Cargo Terminal, Five Star Logistics Terminal, but that it is not so rampant like the frequency of it at Tin Can Island Port.
He added that “There was a case that happened to our National Secretary of ANLCA, it was a damage, it was repaired, the insurance company paid”
Also speaking with our correspondent, another victim of the wharf rats, Mr Sunny Nnebe a freight forwarder, said it is true that wharf rats are still operating at the ports.
“Actually it’s true, I was also a victim, even though they are willing to pay for the stolen items because we took the pictures of the vehicle abroad before loading”
“Once a vessel goes to Cotonou before coming to Nigeria, they will vandalize it there, it’s not because they are Mile 2 bound”
“My take is that people are should try as much to take marine insurance especially on newer vehicles or still, take inventory/picture of the vehicle condition as evidence”
Efforts to get the Managing Director of PTML Terminal, Mr Ascanio Russo to react to the development was futile as inquiries made to him were not responded to.
However, a top management of the company, Nitin Senan eventually told DAILY TREND NEWS that the management have not seen any complaint registered with her.
Our correspondent reports that President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Adewale Adeyanju has over the years absolved his members who are dockworkers from the broaching of cargoes at Nigerian ports.
The union over the years have inundated the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the need to issue fresh biometric identification cards to dockworkers in order to separate the bad eggs.
DAILY TREND NEWS also recalls that the PTML Terminal in the bid to stop unwanted crowd trooping daily into its terminal had introdiced the “access card” for each freight forwarding companies to collect with N10,000 annually.
However, the scheme is being frustrated by some vested interests who complained that the terminal has no right to issue identity cards to freight forwarders .