By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even as the Nigeria Customs Service has since commenced operations of it’s newly procured scanning machines at both Apapa and Tin Can Island Port of Lagos, there are indications that freight forwarders are still undergoing teething problems, which is causing many of them to be discouraged by the scanning activities.
Speaking with members of the 34th Anniversary Committee of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigerian (MARAN) in his office on Wednesday, Chairman of Wealthy Honey Nigeria Limited, Dr Kayode Farinto reiterated that scanning machines are a welcomed development at Nigerian ports.
According to him, no well meaning importer or freight forwarder would kick against the activities of scanning machines at the port, adding that this is what operators have been clamouring for.
He however lamented that the use of the scanning machines is causing a lot of delays which causes the freight forwarders to pay demurrages and storage charges which hitherto were not factored into their contractual agreement with their clients.
According to him, some of the terminal operators in Apapa have equally seen the operation of the scanning machines as an avenue to extort freight forwarders with the introduction of a spurious N50,000 extra charges.
“The scanning machines or non intrusive equipment like it is called, is a welcomed development, these are things we have been clamoring for, but whoever is shifting the blame on freight forwarders is not doing this industry any good
I took my time to go round the Apapa and Tin Can Island scanning sites and I noticed a lot of things. I exchanged notes with the Area Controllers and I advised them.
“One thing about Nigeria is that they don’t like change, when you bring changes, you see people reacting. But whether we like it or not, in view of the security implications and the fact that we are entering electioneering period, the scanners are the best for us for now.
“A lot of psychotropic substances are entering our ports, it is the scanning machines that would help us to address it. Any freight forwarders kicking against scanners is not a patriotic citizen.
“However, what freight forwarders are saying that, most of us have entered a contract of clearance even before the vessel arrives Nigeria. No business man would want storages and demurrages to accrue on their job, this is why freight forwarders are not happy that the scanner is taking too long and they are being discouraged, it’s not as if they don’t want it to operate, customs also needs to be up and doing”
“In Apapa, it takes four to five days to scan containers, Tin Can Port is even better. There is no complaints in Tin Can except in Apapa alone” he said
Dr Farinto urged the management of Nigeria Customs Service to procure more scanning machines, adding that one scanning machine at each of the port is not enough to handle the increased volume of trade coming into the ports
“APMT has brought out 11 MoU with the stakeholders and they are now working on it. For any new system, there would be a teething problem, but the ability for stakeholders to now accept or persevere, makes the system to work.
“It is not as if freight forwarders do not like scanning machines, but the challenges associated with the scanners, for example, the accumulated demurrages at shipping companies and storage charges at terminal operators is what is discouraging freight forwarders, aside that, it is a welcomed development.
“At Apapa port, if you have 500 containers, it takes five days to get it scanned, unlike the 100percent examination that is faster.
“Some of the terminal operators have seen this as an opportunity to introduce spurious charges, especially a N50,00 charge to transfer containers to scanning sites and back to stacking area.
“There should be a minimum of two scanning machines at Apapa port and Tin Can Port, as it is, the single scanning machines is slowing down work”
“In clearing of cargoes, time is of essence, we have had an increase in the volume of our trade imports, so we need to have more scanning machines” he said