Association of Bonded Terminal Operators (ABTON) has said that 80 per cent of the bonded terminals are performing below 20per cent of their capacities due to lack of patronage. It explained that the some of the bonded terminals had lost over N4.5trillion to underutilisation since 2006 when the port operations were concessioned by the Federal Government to private investors. The association urged the Federal Government and the National Assembly to make a policy that would ensure that 20per cent of all cargo landing at the seaports are transferred to bonded terminals. The General Secretary of the association, Mr. Olusesan Haruna Omolajomo, said that this would save the huge financial commitments to bank loans, which they used to build the bonded terminals.
Omolajomo canvassed the establishment of cargo sharing formula, saying that the formula was adopted by Ghana to promote bonded terminals. He explained that only a few bonded terminals, especially those situated by the water or in partnership with shipping lines, performed above 20 per cent. The general secretary noted that when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was in charge of the ports, containers were stemmed to bonded terminal regularly. Omolajomo said: “We have lost nothing less than N4.5 trillion since the port concession. We have invested huge bank loans to build the facilities. It is unfortunate that our terminals are empty while machines are lying fallow.
We want government to come to our aid. We are asking for too much. “Inconsistent policy of the government affects our operations. Under NPA, we did well as containers were transferred to us regularly. This policy changed when APM Terminals and others came in; they stopped transfer to us. “Let there be a conscious policy (law) from the National As-sembly that certain percentage, at least 20 per cent, of containers coming to our ports are allocated to bonded warehouses. There won’t be any reason for operators to complain. This is what our government can do. The policy is in place in Ghana, and it is working perfectly.” The secretary general noted that bonded terminals would not have suffered a total neglect by port concessionaires if they had united rather than individuals going alone to source for cargo instead as an association.
On the proliferation of bonded terminals, Omolajomo blamed the management of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for granting permissions indiscriminately to float terminals, saying that some of them were not doping well. It would be recalled that in 2021, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) said that bonded terminal operation has failed to justify its existence in the port sector. NAGAFF’s 100per cent Compliance Team complained that members of Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria (ABTON) now impose demurrage, storage and transfer charges among other illegal fees on importers and freight forwarders, noting that some terminals lack the capacity to deliver quality and efficient services.
NAGAFF Coordinator of the Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko, alleged that that whenever it rains, operators of bonded terminals suspend examination of cargoes, leading to an increase in demurrages charged against owners of the cargoes. However, ABTON said that the allegations were baseless and was not true, saying that over 40 bonded terminals in Lagos alone operate in accordance with the standards contained in their operation licenses issued by the Customs. Omolajomo stressed that there were guidelines for operating a bonded terminal, adding that Customs does regular inspection before approval, while the operators renew their licenses every year. The general secretary said that bonded terminals with sufficient equipment were not patronised by freight forwarders and importers, noting that they preferred to take their containers to those with fewer facilities and end up complaining of not getting adequate service.