Shippers Council Raise Fresh Concerns Ahead of Lekki Deep Seaport Commissioning
…Says Container Deposits Regime Fraudulent, Oppressive
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Nigerian Shippers Council has said that commissioning of the Lekki Deep Seaport which is billed for September of 2022 might signal problems for the port because currently, there is no certain means of evacuation of cargoes from the port.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting with Editors and Maritime correspondents in Lagos on Tuesday, Executive Secretary of the Council, Hon Emmanuel Jime equally assured Nigerian shippers that the council is ready to scrap the container deposits regime currently being operated by shipping companies.
He said the container deposits regime as it is, is oppressive and fraudulent and that the council is introducing a Container Deposits Insurance Scheme.
On the Lekki Port challenge, Hon Jime called for promotion of inter-modalism and synergy among all parties including the Lagos State Government who according to him is constructing roads that would lead to the port, and the Nigerian Railway Corporation and other players.
He said that currently, everyone is working at cross purposes.
“I believe that the greatest challenge of the Lekki Port would be that, how are we going to evacuate cargoes? This is the challenge we are having in Apapa port, not just to evacuate cargoes, but also a challenge in bringing in cargoes because we are looking at import and export.
“We all know the present condition of the connection into Lekki Port, everybody who has gone there knows what the roads looked like. That port is supposed to start running in September, but I don’t see between now and September that we are going to do anything fundamental that would change the outlook”
“So it means to me that in the short term, we are going to have a problem”
“In the long term, we must promote inter-modalism, for me, this is the key as to how we are going to get out of that situation, therefore, we need rail connectivity.
“The last time the former Minister came to the place, we had a meeting and there was a revelation that there was a plan in the drawing board to connect Lekki Port by rail, but how soon is what I don’t know.
“The way we are going on the project, it appears that everyone is working at cross purpose, there is no synergy, my request is that we need to have a synergized approach so that everybody knows what they are supposed to do.
“For example, the Lagos government is supposed to construct the roads, but when? The rail lines are supposed to be installed, this cannot be done overnight.
In the mean time, barges should be up and running, this is less costly and very efficient.
“There is truly a challenge and we need to have a synergized approach in delivering a sustainable intermodal system for cargo evacuation” he stated.
Hon Jime also said that the Shippers Council takes this container deposits regime presently operating as being oppressive and fraudulent.
He said that shipping companies in Nigeria are more interested in that deposit funds than the business of shipping itself.
“I don’t want to use the word fraudulent but that appears to mean it’s approximate to a fraud frankly.
“Shipping companies appear to me to be interested in container deposits more than the business of shipping itself. If you think about it, work the maths and the figures that has been reeled out, you would find out that shipping companies are making a hell of money from this container deposit regime than they would be making if they are doing the business of shipping.
“There is an incentive there for people to want to work the system as it is, therefore we must stop it.
“One of the things we have put in place as a mechanism for dealing with it, is the container deposits insurance scheme that is working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation, our parent ministry together with insurance companies.
“They are putting together a regime that we believe would address this container deposit challenges in a lot better , efficient and more profitable for the shipping community” he said.
Meanwhile, while speaking on the activities of its Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) Hon Jime said the Council saved the Nigerian economy $20,000 daily in vessel demurrage.
He described the cost-saving measure as part of his achievement since assumption of office in June 2022.
“Some of the successes recorded thus far since my assumption of duty last year include the following: Supervision of the activities of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) in the implementation of the Nigerian Ports Process Manual. The activities of the PSTT focused on threencardinal areas, which are; joint vessel boarding, joint cargo examination, and operation free port access roads.
“On joint vessel boarding by mandated government agencies, the activities of the team saved the Nigerian economy average vessel demurrage of $20,000 per day between year 2020 and 2021, which ultimately translates to the sum of $6,540,000.
“Likewise, the average time for resolving complaints with regards to vessel infractions has also considerably reduced from 7-10 days to 1–4 hours. More than 85% of vessels that called at Nigerian ports in 2021 left without any incident, which was not the case in times past.
“On the other hand, as regards compliance with joint cargo examination by all government agencies involved in cargo clearance, the exercise has helped to increase the number of cargos examined per day from 125 to an average of 230 boxes daily per terminal.
“In summary, the implementation of the manual has facilitated the ease of doing business in our ports and it has drastically reduced corruption tendencies,” he said.
The Shippers Council boss said that the council also collaborated with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) on the establishment and operation of domestic export warehouses, leading to the granting of approval for the establishment of 12 domestic export warehouses nationwide.
“Some of the facilities granted approval to begin operations include GEZEWA Commodity Exchange in Kano, MV EHILOMEL, Onne in Rivers State, ESSLIBRA in Ikorodu-Lagos State, Harris Logistics in Lokoja-Kogi State, Sealink Limited in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, Kaduna Inland Dry Port in Kaduna State, AMES-Edo Inland dry Port in Benin-Edo State, etc,” he said.
He said the NSC, in 2021, received and handled 518 complaints, while it handled 100 complaints in the first quarter of 2022, leading to the recovery of N1.07 billion from service providers for consignees in 2021 and N18.49 billion in the first quarter of 2022,” Jime said.