Clearing agents have been told to take advantage of the lockdown in Lagos State to take delivery of their consignments to avoid congestion at the ports.
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr Hassan Bello, made the call on Wednesday when he visited Apapa and Tin Can Island ports said cargo should not be subjected to interstate restrictions in order to keep the economy of the nation moving amid the covid-19 pandemic.
He said the seaports must remain operational for the exit of cargoes especially raw and relief materials.
Bello who visited two port terminals, ENL Consortium and PTML said “I am always scared about the congestion on both sides that will happen if cargo is not taken out of the port. We have terminals with 95 per cent occupancy rate. We are doing the same thing at Port Harcourt where people are not allowed to convey their goods from the port.
“We are talking to the authority to make sure cargoes are allowed to move freely. There should be movement of cargo. Cargo should not be subjected to interstate restrictions. Cargo should reach his destination; that is why even the airport we have cargo planes dropping. Exception has been made as far as that is concerned”.
Bello said the NSC was making effort to see that the ports remain operational because it is the nerve of the nation’s economy and especially for the country to fight the Coronavirus.
“We need certain essential commodities and medicine equipment and so on to move. We have sent circulars trying to see that port operations are kept or the port is moving despite the difficulties. The government has to find a balance between the safety of the people and the economy. Port also generates revenue, which is needed now.
“In order to ensure that there is smooth operations in the port, Shippers Council has been transporting some agents and freight forwarders so that they could come to port and transact their businesses. I know that we are operating under some difficult situations. This is global and I know there are certain destructions in international shipping, logistics and so on especially certain contracts that are frustrated by the nature of this pandemic. And we cannot perform some of our obligations and that goes to both parties.
“We have also been talking with the commercial banks. Some of them have also opened immediately – two branches in Apapa – to transact the business of assessment of duty and payment of duty, which they will start tomorrow, we are talking with other banks and they will do the same,” he said.
Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium and Chairperson, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, lamented that the terminal is already full to the brim with 85 per cent yard space already occupied.
She attributed this to the fact that freight forwarders and importers were not coming forward to take delivery of their consignments, noting that at the moment, five vessels are waiting at berth, ready to discharge their contents.
“The freight forwarders are not coming because some of them have Customs problems. I have five ships at the berth and the terminal is full. We are working but the people are not coming,” she said.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of PTML, Mr. Ascanio Russo, said, “I’m very glad that the Federal Government is seeing the port as a critical infrastructure, which needs to be open all the time especially in difficult times like this. There is nowhere in the world even in the most affected countries, ports and critical logistics service were never closed. I also appreciate the Council for the role taken to facilitate access to the ports and also for the banks to come on so that we can facilitate the payment of duties and these are very critical steps because on our own side, we are ready to work.”