A new guideline to facilitate import and export trade at the seaport is being considered by Federal Government as shipping lines, which fail to transmit their advanced cargo manifest, may be denied berthing rights. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
As the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is making efforts to collaborate with other stakeholders to further reform the import and export processes in the port industry, terminal operators now have only 12-hour notice to place cargo for examination.
The guideline is part of Federal Government’s decision to reduce the time taken to import and export goods by 50 per cent.
Already, shipping lines have been mandated to transmit advanced manifest of their cargoes to the NCS and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) electronically as soon as the vessel departs the last port of call. This is to further ensure that there is enough time for risk assessment, profiling and optimised placement of cargoes. Failure by the shipping lines to adhere to the guidelines may cause them huge losses as port authorities have warned that they would be denied berthing rights.
Also, the liners are now required to ensure that imports into country are well arranged in pallets. Liners, which fail to palletise their cargoes will be sanctioned by NCS and possibly asked to take the non-palletised cargoes back onboard the ship.
It has been discovered that one of the major reasons for cargo delays at the ports is the haphazard manner in which goods are packed in containers. It was also learnt that different types of goods are dumped in the container and imported into the country, thereby, slowing the pace of physical examination and making it difficult to examine the goods with modern equipment.
It was gathered that most times, terminal operators are unaware of the contents of a container and could not determine if the cargoes require physical examination or not.
Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, a deputy comptroller, said that government had directed NCS to schedule and coordinate the Mandatory Joint Examinations and sign-off form to ensure that there is only one point of contact between importers and officials. Attah said that NCS was focused on how to ensure that the country’s import and export procedures adhere to international standards. “We will be the first to admit that the reality at the Nigerian ports is challenging and can be improved upon,” he added.
In its bid to improve trade facilitation, Attah explained that the minimum cargo placement notice time for the examination required by terminal operators has been trimmed from 24 hours to a maximum of 12 hours.
He added that export processes average was between two and three weeks in Nigeria, compared to four days in Kenya. Also, the deputy comptroller explained that up to 14 documents were required for imports in Nigerian ports, compared to just five in Rwanda.
Attah noted: “Factors like these are responsible for the country’s low rank of 14th out of 15 ECOWAS economies and 182nd out of 190 economies worldwide in the ‘Trade Across Borders’ indicator on the most recent World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings.”
It would be recalled that last February, the Comptroller- General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), was among several heads of ministries, depart- ments and agencies, who gathered at the conference room of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for the launch of the 60-Day National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). A major step was taken to achieve the target when the Department of Home Finance of the Federal Ministry of Finance revised Nigeria’s import and export guidelines, following a directive from the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to streamline current procedures.
There is need for government to overhaul the port clearing process for efficient trade facilitation.