A forum in Lagos has indicted the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NCS) for leading the Federal Government into a cargo palletisation policy for which the country is bound to lose at least $60 million or N18.6 billion annually.
The policy, which is the practice of piling goods in pallets in a container, was introduced in the country in January. Pallets are plane (flat) structures utilised in cargo container ships for supporting goods or containers. Cargo consignments are piled atop these structures, the process being referred to as palletization.
Government adopted the policy based on the advice of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, which is the country’s economic regulator at the ports and also the protector of shippers – importers and exporters.
However, at a Town Hall Meeting organized early this week in Apapa by Ships & Ports Communication, industry operators took the government to the cleaners for embarking on an exercise that would not only lead to loss of revenue by the country but would elicit cargo diversion to ports of neighbouring countries.
According to the communiqué issued at the end of the one day gathering, the maritime stakeholders also raised issues on the importation of strange organisms into the country through wooden pallets and the management of the pallet waste after use.
Vehemently opposing the policy at the meeting was the National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, who observed that the palletization policy held no benefit for the country and “will also further breed corruption” at the port.
In his words, “The policy will be difficult for shippers because we are an import dependent nation. Palletization will enhance corruption in the ports, as a good chunk of the internally generated revenue in the port will go into private pockets. Palletization should not be our priority, rather let us look at how we can improve services at the ports”.
Speaking on the theme of the forum, “Whither the Palletization Policy?” the Managing Director of CMA CGM, a frontline container carrier operating in Nigeria, Mr. Todd Rives, said the policy would lead to the loss of over $60 million annually. He warned that the policy must be thoroughly thought through by government before it caused the damage.
Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, expressed fears over the implementation of the new policy, stating that “it cannot work in Nigeria”.
Afolabi, who was represented by the General Manager Shipping of SIFAX, Mr. Henry Ajoh, rather advised that what the ports needed urgently was enhanced cargo examination system to facilitate ease of doing business.
“We need scanners. Government needs to deploy technology at the port for Customs examination and release processes. That is the way to go. Palletization takes us backward and cannot work in Nigeria”, he added.
In his contribution, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barr. Hassan Bello, said that palletization of cargo was international best practice.
Surprisingly, he said the introduction of the policy in Nigeria was to enhance physical examination of cargo by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at a time stakeholders are clamouring for employment of technology into the port system.
Bello also noted however, that there were cargoes that could not be palletized noting that as a Council, it had to listen to stakeholders and take their concerns to the relevant government authorities.