The new freight being introduced by barge operators licensed to move cargoes in and out of the seaports is threatening the country’s N12.5 trillion exports. It was gathered that the barge operators were exploiting the inefficiency of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s electronic call–up system to hike fees charged for cargo movement by 37.7 per cent. Before now, importers and exporters were paying N220,000 per container to move their cargoes through the waterways; but the charges have been increased to N340,000 or 37.7 per cent.
In 2020, the country exported some cargoes valued at N12.5 trillion, but findings by New Telegraph revealed that due to gridlock, some perishable produce for exports were being damaged on the port road, leading to approval of cargo movement by barges licensed by NPA as an alternative means to facilitate export. According to the outgoing Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Barr Hassan Bello, export cargoes still suffer between 20 days and 24 days delay before gaining access into the port, while imported cargoes are delayed for 21 days dwell time at the port. He said in Lagos that in other neighbouring ports, cargoes spent just 7 days dwell time at the port. He said: “There are many shippers, who are exporting now, and one of the problems is access to the port.
We have cargoes that spend 20 days and 24 days before they gain access into the port. We have struggled so much to ensure that this is not done.” In the Q1’20, Nigeria’s export was N4.08 trillion; Q2, N2.22 trillion; Q3, N2.99 trillion and Q4, N3. 19 trillion. In the fourth quarter alone, Nigeria exported N1.16 trillion goods to Asia or 36.3per cent; Europe, N1.07 trillion or 33.5per cent; Africa, N551.1 billion or 17.3per cent; America, N376.4 billion or 11.8per cent and Oceania, N36.7 billion or 1.1per cent. However, following the inability of NPA to sustain the electronic call-up system, which has led to the poor flow of trucks inward and outward the seaports in the last two months, the unified body of maritime truck operators, Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), said that the cost of moving cargoes from the seaports to Mile 2 through the waterways had increased. The President of COMTUA, Olaleye Thompson, explained that exporters were now paying N340,000 per containers instead of N220,000.
He noted: “The barge operators have noticed that the road is zero, so you don’t have a choice if you want to move your consignment early, you have to come to them. “It has given them the monopoly because they know that you cannot get it done on the road. You have to come back to them.
“It is the common masses in the market that suffer the whole thing. Even if they move containers for one million, it is people that will suffer it at the long run because whatever you buy, you put it on the prices. “So, government needs to do something because it is like punishing the citizens.” But findings by New Telegraph revealed that NPA had said that unregistered barges would not be allowed to sail and lift a cargo on Nigerian waters, noting that its operators must be licensed.