About 200 unclaimed containers at the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, Lagos, have been condemned by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Some of the containers were said to have been transferred to the terminal as far back as 2007. They reportedly contained expired products or rotten perishable materials.
The Customs Area Controller of the command, Mr. Nasir Ahmed, told our correspondent that all containers at the ports which had overstayed the stipulated period for storage were often brought to the terminal by the Nigerian Ports Authority. The last transfer was said to have been carried out between February and March 2014.
He said, “The unclaimed containers are usually compiled by the terminal operators and shipping companies and moved to the ILT by the NPA. This usually happens once in a while.
“There are some containers which have been here since 2007, 2008 and 2009. Already, they are condemned because the products which are in have either expired or rotten in the case of perishable items.
“They can no longer go back into the society through auctions because their contents are dangerous to human health. We are just waiting for orders from our headquarters at Abuja to take them to a dumpsite in Ogun State for destruction.”
The destruction exercise is expected to be carried out with the assistance of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Department of State Service and the police.
Nasir added that owners of other unclaimed containers at the ILT could still take possession of them provided that they could show proofs that they had paid the appropriate duty to the Federal Government.
He said, “They also have to show proof of delisting from the gazette and overtime clearance from the NCS headquarters.”
The President of the Shippers Association of Lagos State, Mr. Jonathan Nicol, blamed the practice of importers and agents abandoning containers at the terminals on the high cost of transacting business at the Nigerian seaports.
He said, “Most of these containers were abandoned because of high customs duty — our customs duty is so high that in some cases, they are higher than the cost of the goods. By the time you add the terminal and shipping charges, the importer could be making a loss.
“In some other cases, it could be that the owner of the cargo die and there is no one to claim their cargo. If an importer brings in a cargo with $10,000 and discovers that he has to clear it with $15,000, how will he break even?
“Nobody is considering the importer. When they cannot break even, they would abandon the cargo at the port and leave the country. This is what is happening now.”
Nicol called on the Federal Government to assist importers by reviewing the cost of cargo clearance and tariff at the ports.
Spokesperson for the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said the issue of unclaimed containers at the terminals was a frequent occurrence and one of the numerous challenges faced by terminal operators.—Business News