Despite the N705 billion investments in port reforms aimed at making Nigerian ports more efficient and cost-effective, cargo dwell time in Nigerian ports has remained the longest in the West African region.
BusinessDay investigations revealed that Nigerian ports currently handle an average of 77 million metric tonnes of cargo and 877,737 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of containers annually. But industry analysts estimate that Nigeria would be handling over 150 million metric tonnes of cargo annually if the current dwell time of over 21 days is reduced.
The lingering long dwell time, according to analysts, has made Nigeria to lose over 40 percent of inbound cargoes, which are diverted to neighbouring ports of Benin Republic, Togo and Cameroon.
Most of the analysts who spoke to BusinessDay attributed the long dwell time to bureaucratic bottlenecks in the form of excessive physical examination of imported cargoes by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and long documentation processes involved in cargo clearance at the port.
Currently, it takes an average of 14-21 days ((two-three weeks) or more to clear a consignment from the seaport. This is happening despite the 48-hour cargo clearance policy of the Federal Government.
Comparatively, it takes an importer an average of 48 hours (two days) to clear and take delivery of his or her consignment in Ghanaian ports. For Cotonou (Benin Republic) ports, it takes between five to seven days (one week) to clear a consignment. This is ditto for Lome (Togo) port where an importer spends an average of seven days to clear cargo.
Kofi Mbiah, chief executive officer, Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), during his recent visit to Nigeria, said it takes an average of one-two days (48 hours) to clear cargo at Ghanaian seaports. He said an average Ghanaian port uses electronic platform to fast-track cargo clearance processes, which is hugely responsible for the reduction of cargo dwell time at Ghanaian ports from initial 12 days to the current two days.
Apart from the issue of high import tariff, Nigerian ports are not user-friendly, which is why cargo clearance takes about 21 days in most cases, said Tony Anakebe, managing director, Gold-Link Investment Limited, a clearing and forwarding company.
“Clearing at Nigerian ports is gradually returning back to those days of difficulties that made the Federal Government to concession the port. We need a central data system for all the operators involved in cargo clearance to share information for faster cargo release because this issue is turning into cost for the importer, who ends up paying demurrage and storage charges to the shipping companies and terminal operators,” Anakebe explained.
A single document sometimes goes through the hands of 100 persons because some government agencies at the ports duplicate themselves, said Tony Nwabunike, pioneer chairman, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders (CRFF), urging the Federal Government to look into the issue because it results to extortion.
Information from Business Day was used in this report.