The cost of doing business at the nation’s ports remains high despite the reduction in the number of security agencies operating there from 14 to eight about two years ago.
For instance, the Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said on Wednesday that Nigeria was losing about N24bn annually due to the delay of vessels at the ports.
He said the delay was usually caused by the security agencies during statutory checks on vessels at the ports.
The figure, according to the maritime consultant, is the outcome of a recent research.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had in October 2011 ordered the withdrawal of six security agencies from the ports, leaving eight others in order to improve the cargo clearing process, ease congestion and reduce the cost of doing business.
But Akinola said the situation was far from improving.
He listed the agencies carrying out such statutory inspection on vessels as the Nigeria Immigration Service, Quarantine Service, Port Health, Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
According to him, while standard inspection time should not take more than an hour, it may take about four hours at Nigerian ports, thus incurring a lot of debt for the vessel owner.
Akinola said, “The inspection and rummaging performed by the agencies are essential for immigration control, port state control and enforcement of government fiscal policy, but I think too much time is spent on doing that.
“Our findings revealed that a vessel can be delayed for as much as four hours at berth during such inspections. The standard time for such inspections should not be more than one hour.”
He explained that the four-hour delay could cost a shipping company as much as $30,000 (N4.8m), an amount which he said would consequently be passed on to the importer.
“With an average of 5,000 sea-going vessels calling at our ports in a year, this could sum up to $150m on an annual basis. The ship owner will not bear this cost but will ultimately pass it on to the importer, who will in turn pass it on to the market,” he said.
Information from Punch was used in this report.