• NPA, Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock working to check overlapping functions, says Hadiza
The federal government has concluded plans to put an end to the payment of container deposits by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, told newsmen Tuesday during the Meeting of Heads of Parastatals in Lagos that this was to save shippers the huge costs involved which he put at N1.7 billion annually.
Shippers are required by shipping companies to make a deposit of about N150,000 for containers leaving the ports which is expected to be refunded when the shipper returns the empty.
However, shippers find it extremely difficult getting the refund when the empty container is returned as it is either delayed or denied over flimsy excuses by the shipping companies.
It is estimated that billions of Naira of such deposits are still with the shipping companies even after the empty have been returned long ago.
Bello said that the amount paid as container deposits to shipping companies was adding heavily to the cost of doing business in the ports.
He disclosed that the NSC has been discussing with the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NAICON) for the introduction of insurance cover to replace container deposit.
According to him, “Shippers pay N120,000 per container as the container deposit; that is about N1.7 billion every year and this is adding to the cost of doing business and this is not the fault of the shipper but because he cannot return the container within the specified time; the roads are clogged, the holding bays are not working; So, how can he bear that risks?
“We want indemnity system and we have already talked with NAICON; there must be insurance penetration. We could extend the marine insurance to cover containers. And by the first quarter of next year there will not be payment of containers’ deposit,”.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, also during the meeting assured that the deep blue project would take care of the issues of maritime security.
Jamoh said the meeting was concerned about addressing common areas of challenges in the sector, adding that introduction of a port community system is being considered.
He told newsmen, “Exactly one month ago, we commenced the meeting of the heads of maritime agencies to deliberate on a common area of challenges. Today, one of the issues discussed is the port community system. We have agreed to set up a committee that will look into the operationality of the port community system.
“We also discussed the 24 hours operation of our ports. We observed that port efficiency and effectiveness cannot be achieved without 24 hours port operation.
“We have also agreed that at the next meeting, we will have an action plan which will come with deliverables and key performance indicator to see how our ports will run on a 24 hours basis.
“The issue of multi-modal means of cargo evacuation was also discussed, and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has been mandated to ensure professionalism in the movement of cargoes by barges”.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, said her organization was doing everything possible to address the issue of gridlock in Apapa.
Hadiza disclosed that NPA was working with the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock to check the problem of overlapping functions.
Usman said, “I’m curious as to the specific areas where there has been a lack of cooperation between NPA and the presidential task force. What we sought to do with PTF is to identify that they have jurisdiction with the port access roads but not the ports. If there are any overlapping functions they would take actions to curb them. However, it is important for PTF to understand that the role of port operations still domiciles with the Nigerian Ports Authority.
“No matter what PTF does to address the traffic gridlock, if all port stakeholders and the government do not recognise the need to deploy multimodal transport system, the gridlock would remain.”