By Godwin Oritse
In addition to the operational equipment deficiencies, Nigeria’s ports’ congestion is now further worsened by abandoned cargoes.
Speaking to a team of journalists from Vanguard, the Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the volume of the cargoes is now over 6000 containers and is still increasing.
He added that the abandoned shipments, usually known as overtime cargo, also includes over 1,800 vehicles.
According to Bello-Koko the situation is undermining the efficiency of the ports system as the problem which hitherto was limited to Lagos ports, is now spreading to other ports in other parts of the country.
The NPA boss also disclosed that there are abandoned containers that have been in the ports for more than 20 years adding that the continued stay of the problem cargoes is now a major contributing factor to the current congestion being experienced at the ports across the country adding that the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, where these categories of cargoes are taken is also filled up.
He further disclosed that the NPA has written to the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, appealing that they speed up the process of auctioning these containers.
He stated: “Over time cargoes are unusually declared by the terminal operators after 90 days of grace period for such cargoes to stay in the ports.
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“We currently have over 6,000 containers across the ports, including Ikorodu, and then we have over 1800 vehicles in Ikorodu and other locations, and some of them have been there for 10 years, a few have been there for probably 15 years, and it is not just one location; Onne port in River state, is beginning to have that problem. All of a sudden Onne port now has a large number of overtime containers also, but the ports here in Lagos have most of them.
“The problem has been there before the current Comptroller General of Customs came in.
“In fact, I was made to understand that there were some containers that were seized since 1977 FESTAC and as at last year, those containers were there. I do not know if they have been cleared now.
“We have written to the Nigerian Customs Service to speed up the process of auctioning these containers.
“Imagine 6000 containers; they are really occupying large space. Ikorodu terminal was designated as a location for evacuation of overtime Cargo but the terminal is now filled up.
“So, there is actually no space to move in more containers and we have written to the Customs about this situation.
“I believe they must have started the process of auctioning some of these containers.“It will also reduce congestion and free up space for other containers come in there. The terminal operators are also complaining about these overtime cargoes.”
Stakeholders in the shipping industry have consistently lampooned the Customs over inefficient clearing environment which has resulted in the at almost 25 days turn-around time for containers, about the worst amongst third world nations’ countries.