The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) would be willing to provide functional scanners for seamless cargo examination at the ports, if tasked to do so, in furtherance of the efforts to enhance efficiency at ports.
The STOAN spokesperson, Mr. Bolaji Akinola gave this indication while speaking as a guest on a programme by Maritime TV called Live Conversations on Tuesday.
Although the provision and management of scanners falls under the purview of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Akinola stressed that terminal operators have the capacity to provide scanners if engaged for such services by the government.
He posited that the absence of functional scanners at Nigerian ports and consequent 100 percent physical examination of cargoes by Customs was a negation of the government’s ease of doing business agenda.
“It is unfortunate that the scanners brought in by the initial destination inspectors have all packed up. However, it falls under Customs purview and they seem happy with the 100 percent physical examination. It is important to note that this physical inspection is against the ease of doing business agenda the government is promoting.”
“If the government wants terminal operators to provide scanners, the operators can provide quality scanners but that would be a different arrangement entirely. Terminal operators can provide and manage functional scanners for the nation but that isn’t currently the responsibility of the terminals,” he said.
Akinola who was speaking on “Port Economics: Are Nigerian ports expensive?”, stated that Customs charges account for 70 percent of the total Nigerian port charges in cargo evacuation, even as he decried the numerous interception cargoes already examined physically by Customs.
According to him, there are three major issues leading to the high cost of Nigerian ports. They are the cost of shipment or freight cost, trucking cost and custom duties.
His words: “The freight cost to Nigeria is one of the highest in the region from Europe or China. It is cheaper to get a consignment from China to Ghana, than China to Nigeria. When you drill further, you would find the issues responsible for this high cost. Unfortunately, most people have refused to take cognizance of the issues which were also highlighted by a recent study conducted by Lloyds.”
“Another issue is the cost of Nigerian customs duties. 70 percent of the entire cost at Nigerian ports is charged by Customs. If you move one container from China to your warehouse in Nigeria and the entire port cost is N1million, N700,000 would have gone to Customs.”
‘The cost of trucking is also too expensive. It has become more alarming in recent times, especially in the last two years. It is cheaper to move a container from China to Nigeria than to move that container from the ports to somewhere else in Lagos. The cost of trucking has gone up about five times within the last two years by over 500 percent. This high cost of trucking is a function of the dilapidated port access roads.”
He, however, expressed satisfaction with the level of compliance of terminal operations in carrying out essential port services in line with safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic at the ports.
Noting that port operations continued in spite of the recent lockdown in Lagos, he posited that terminal operators made huge sacrifices to get members of staff available for cargo evacuation.
“Despite the lockdown, Apapa was busy as port activities continued. There wasn’t an outbreak of the pandemic at the ports to the extent that it was out of control. This means the terminal operators were doing something right with compliance to the safety procedures.”
“In terms of funding, monetary contributions also came up as the terminal operators collectively contributed 700million to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Most of the personal protective equipment (PPE) at the ports were donated by the terminal operators,” he added.