Cargo operation at port

Freight agents under the aegis of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents NCMDLCA have petitioned the Federal Government over the introduction of the controversial cargo palletisation policy by the Federal Ministry of Finance in alliance with the Nigeria Customs Service.

Palletisation is a method of storing and transporting goods stacked on a pallet and shipped as a unit load. It makes for standardised ways of handling loads with equipment such forklift trucks.

In a letter dated February 9, 2018 signed by the president of the association, Mr. Lucky Amiwero and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhary, the group said that if implemented the policy, which contravenes International Plant Protection Convention IPPC, ISPM No. 15, will cause delays to international maritime traffic, additional costs and procedural defects that will negatively affect the totality of imports in to the economy and health hazards to the economy on invasive insects that usually accompany the pallets.

According to the group, pallets, crates and loose dunnage constitute extra cost to shipper that does not require pallet adding that crates and loose dunnage in their shipment, will attract additional cost, delays and discourage shipment into Nigeria’s seaports due to cost, long procedures with attendant delays.

The letter, which copies were sent to the National Assembly, among several other government agencies reads in part: “The mandatory enforcement of palletised goods in containers will reduce the normal shipment into container and increase the number of containers for each shipment, due to the space the pallet will occupy, which will lead to increase in the number of containers for shipment, which is additional freight charges on each added container”.

It insists that the mandatory enforcement of pallets on containerised goods, will attract the presence of the Plant Quarantine officers in the ports to regulate the implementation of the policy, which brings about additional cost, thereby increasing the process and cost to importer and licensed customs agents.

The group also argued that the restriction as to the use of wooden pallets by international community in shipment is to reduce the carriage of invasive species of insects and plant disease into their economies.

While wondering why the Federal Government has allowed all the scanners at the ports to break down, the group said: “In line with the World Customs Organisation’s Revised Kyoto Convention and Safe Frame for standards to facilitate global trade, scanners are Non-Intrusive Inspection Tool NII, used for inspection and limits the physical Examination with small forklift, to lift pallets.

Physical examination by global standard is reduced by 80 per cent of Customs Intervention, which is mostly done through scanning to identify arms and unwholesome goods and not physical examination that is no more accepted in Customs examination or inspection globally”.

In the alternative, the freight agents recommended the repair of the broken down scanners to eliminate the mandatory palletisation of imports in containers on Nigeria shipment, which is very costly and has mandatory international convention on shipment procedure that will constitute delays and possible diversion of vessel out of the nation’s seaports.

Also recommended was a total cancellation of the policy in line with international shipping terms, which excluded palletised goods from the requirement for shipping of vehicles, equipment, homogenous goods such as rice, chemicals, and other goods that are not  of dangerous  and fragile cargo.

The group also recommended that scanning procedure that was removed partially due to breakdown of the scanners from the import guideline should be included so as not to undermine the influence and role of the country that controls 75 per cent of sub regional trade by contravening the WCO Conventions on scanning inspection, which is mandatory as contracting party to the convention.