Cargo dwell time in Nigerian seaports remains highest in Africa

Imported cargo into Nigeria stays longer in the port before being cleared by inspection authorities when compared with other seaports in Africa, a study funded by the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) reveals.
In Nigeria’s seaport, cargo dwells for 19-25 days; in Cotonou, 12-14 days; in Durban port, South Africa, four days, while in Mombassa port, Kenya, cargo stays a maximum of 5.7 days, the study further notes.
“Nigerian seaport has the longest cargo dwell time compared to any other port in the world. This is due to the number of government agencies at the port. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has more than 10 units that an import document must pass through, while other agencies have more than four to five units, and all these constitute delay,” Tony Anakebe, managing director of Gold-Link Investment Limited, says.  
Anakebe, who notes that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are among the agencies sent out from the port by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, says that both have returned to the port and they contribute to the delay, which in turn results to extra cost for the shipper.
“The documentation process required for a licensed clearing agent to be granted approval to take the consignment away from the port is also long and tedious. The Federal Government needs to reduce the agencies because it also results to cutting corners and corruption,” Anakebe advises. 
Citing example, he observes that in Dubai, government authorities do not require long clearance procedure to release an import that conforms to the laws guiding international trade. “Importers only pay the duty electronically and the terminal operator loads the cargo on truck, which the Customs examines at the gate and the cargo would be released,” he says.
Also, the Nigerian seaport has the lowest free storage period in West African sub-region, as importers get three storage free days before being charged for storage by terminal operators; in Benin Republic importers get seven free days, while Ghana and Cameroon give 11 free days.
In terms of demurrage, the study notes that importers get five demurrage free periods in Nigerian seaport; Republic of Benin gives 10 days; Ghana gives seven days, while Cameroon and Shanghai port in China give 10 demurrage free days.
“Our cargo dwells longer in the port because we are operating in very abnormal situation, and most of the things we do here are out of context. We travel abroad and see the ideal situation but come back to do otherwise,” Jonathan Nicole, president of Shippers’ Association of Lagos State, says.  
According to Nicole, officers of government agencies create problems for importers for their selfish benefits, as “we need a new port order and government needs to put its feet on the ground to bring changes in the system.
“Port of Sri Lanka, which handles about 6 million containers annually, has more plants and equipment that enable the terminals to service the vessel in two hours. The turnaround time for vessels is in few hours and their Customs is not located in the port but outside the port. Their Customs examines already cleared cargo at the port gate,” he says. 
Reacting, Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC, says the quality, cost and efficiency of transport services influence the trading environment and the competitiveness of export goods on the international market as well as the cost of imported goods in the local market.
Bello, who notes that the cost and cumbersome process of doing business was high in Nigerian ports prior to the appointment of NSC as the Ports Economic Regulator, observes that the high cost of doing business in Nigeria coupled with the low ranking of Nigeria on ‘Global Logistics Index’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ prompted the Federal Government to appoint the NSC as a regulator.
“We need drastic and fast-paced reforms to improve our business environment and attract foreign investors. The Presidency has approved the formation of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) – chaired by the Vice President to drive the reform agenda and ensure implementation.
“PEBEC has the mandate to move Nigeria up at least 20 places in the EODB rankings from 2018.
While NSC is currently working on a major ICT initiative that will ensure transparency and facilitate speedy cargo clearance in the ports,” he says.

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