After several failed attempts and following assurances by the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has set a June 2021 deadline to stop payment of container deposits by shippers to shipping companies.
The Executive Secretary of the NSC, Hassan Bello, said shippers paid N16billion as container deposit in 2018 indicating that the country may have lost about N48billion as container deposit in three years.
A container deposit is a specified amount that the importer is made to pay as a guarantee for the return of the container after the goods in it have been discharged.
Speaking during a media parley in Lagos on Friday, Bello who blamed lack of accessible holding bays and gridlock as major reasons why shippers could not return containers within the stipulated free period said the Council in partnership with NAICOM would substitute insurance cover for container deposit.
“In 2018, we paid N16 billion as container deposit. That is not acceptable. So we have gone round to see how we can remove this container deposit and replace it with insurance. We are working with NAICOM, Marine Office Committee on Nigerian Insurance Association and the shipping companies are also in line with what we are doing. We just want to look at the ratio of loss of containers.
“Through no fault of the shipper, he can’t return these containers and the shipping companies have not provided accessible holding bays and the shipper has to go through the traffic and in three days time, he lost his deposit. That is unfair. So we hope that by the end of this second quarter, we would have gotten approval by all the authorities to stop container deposit. Even the shipping companies will be relieved because it is a lot of burden on them,” Bello said.
On efforts to digitalise port processes, Bello said the Council has achieved 70 percent compliance level by operators adding that average turnaround time for ships has also reduced from nine days to three days.
He said, “For shipping companies, some have achieved 70 to 80 percent automation. We have some of the seaport terminals also recording as high as 92 percent and that is encouraging. All payments for seaport terminals are now digitalised before it takes six days for you to make payment but now in six seconds, you have already paid.
“The second phase we are looking at is integration because everybody can have online but they have to integrate with the banks and Customs. That is one thing we are looking at and it is achievable.”
The NSC boss however decried the poor condition of the Lagos ports environment taken over by heaps of stinking refuse with their accompanying health hazards, food vendors, hawkers and reckless okada riders.
He said that the Council in collaboration with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will enforce the Port and Offences Act to clear the port environs.
Bello said the port environment had become so dirty due to illegal and unregulated activities of hawkers, which have degraded the environment.
He said, “You have to see the port environment; it is not clean at all. Illegal things happen there. There are kiosks set up every well, people selling engine oil, degrading the whole environment; we are going to clear that. We are working with the Nigerian Ports Authority to use the Port and Offences Act effectively to clear the place off.
“You can’t go and be selling food on the corridor, that means the trailer coming will stop there and say give me Amala and a five minute stop will cause a lot of delays and problems. So we can’t afford to have that. Port is a special place that is made for speedy execution of transactions. We cannot have people selling engine oil at the port environment.”