FG Says Single Window Project Elusive, Replaces it with “Port Community System”

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Barr Hassan Bello, former Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council

…As Shippers Council Lampoon Nigerian Shippers for Refusal to Return Empty Containers

By DAPO OLAWUNI

Following the inability of government regulatory agencies to speak in one voice over who should control the National Single Window platform, there are indications that the federal government may have abandoned the Single Window Project for a more profitable “Port Community System”

Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Hassan Bello dropped the hint while briefing the press in Lagos last week.

Bello said that the Port Community System is being cordinated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

This is even as the Shippers Council have blamed Nigerian shippers for their refusal and reluctance in returning of empty containers back to shipping companies.

Investigations have revealed that the absence of a National Single Window platform at Nigeria’s seaports is costing the federal government a whopping N1.08trillion revenue annually.

The single window system is a trade facilitation idea that enables international traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location for speedy processing.

Nigeria’s neighbours – Ghana, Togo, and Benin Republic – have a functional National Trade Platforms for trade facilitation, while Nigeria, a supposed hub for maritime activities, was yet to have any.

Over the years, maritime stakeholders have argued that the single window platform would reduce cargo delivery time from Nigeria seaports to less than 10 days and further facilitate trade as all agencies operating at the ports would have a one-stop-shop for cargo clearance and evacuation.

Speaking at the press briefing recently, Bello said “I don’t agree with you that we need to have the single window, we could have the Port Community System which is being handled by NPA and the Federal Ministry of Transportation since the Single Window has become elusive so to stay”

“We are now going through with the Port Community System which is in fact better.
The single window is not something you ask one agency to supervise, it should go to the private sector so that everybody’s transactions would be seen” he said

Also speaking, the Shippers Council’s Director of regulatory services, Mrs Ifeoma Ezedinma has said that Nigerian shippers should also be blamed over the alleged dumping of empty containers in Nigeria.

She absolved the shipping companies of blames, saying that some of them actually bring ships to evacuate empty containers but Nigerian shippers failed to bring the containers.

She equally blamed poor road infrastructures as one of the banes of quick return of empty containers to the designated terminals.

“We have approached the shipping companies and instructed them to move their empty containers out of Nigeria, they should take 100percent empty containers away as they bring cargoes into Nigeria”

“We are aware that it is not entirely their fault, we have the lack of road infrastructures in place, the Shippers themselves abandon containers in places that the shipping companies do not have access to”

“Some of these shippers do not give their correct addresses so they cannot be contacted. We have an issue in Kano, most of the Shippers abandoned their containers in Kano, they refused to return them to the shipping companies”

“We are aware of one of the shipping companies that actually got a vessel, the vessel stayed in Nigeria for two weeks to take empties out of Nigeria”

“As much as we are after the shipping companies, we should also talk to our people, because they are the ones taking these containers out of terminals, the demurrages imposed on them is a punitive measure, it is not a charge, it encourages them to return the empties” she said

Ezedinma stated that there is a new surcharge that has been imposed on the African Region called “Container Imbalance”

She said this is because empty containers are not able to exit the country on time.

“We shouldn’t keep blaming one party, we should actually blame all parties involved in cargo delivery” she stressed.

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