National President of ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike

The National President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike has lamented the refusal of multinational lines that operate in Nigeria to issue True Bill of Laden for consignments designated for Inland Dry Ports IDPs, which is taking its toll on the viability, operations and efficiency of the dry ports, primarily designed to reduce pressure on conventional seaports.

True Bill of Laden is a document issued in respect of consignments designated from a port of origin to a port of destination, a development that will give the dry ports a final destination status, implying that such consignments will be transferred to the IDPs immediately on arrival without the rigours of examination before the transfer.

Recall that the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali had during a stakeholders meeting held in Lagos penultimate week to find ways of decongesting the ports, especially through the removal and auctioning of overtime cargo, insisted that the service would continue to examine containers meant for the dry ports before their transfer, citing instances where Customs escorts connive with some importers to divert such consignments.

Also recall that APM Terminals Apapa, Limited, the biggest container terminal in the country had last week warned of looming congestion at the ports following substantial increase in the volumes of the imported goods and therefore urged importers and their agents to promptly take delivery of their consignments to forestall any build-up.

The ANLCA President, who spoke in Lagos, noted that efforts to make the shipping companies issue TBL for consignments meant for the dry ports, even with the express request of the importers have proved abortive, a development that now make many of the importers reluctant to stem their consignments to the dry ports.

It was gathered that the reason for the refusal of these shipping lines to issue TBL for the transit cargoes may not be unconnected with their affiliation with some of the terminal operators, who would want to collect terminal charges on the affected consignments, but which will also imply double charging for the importers, which will be passed down to the final consumers.

Nwabunike, who is also a director in Inland Container Nigeria Limited ICNL, located in Kaduna already holding talks with the Nigerian Shippers Council, the port regulator and facilitator of the dry port project in the country in conjunction with other IDP operators.

In addition to the non-issuance of TBL by the shipping lines, he also disclosed that the dry ports, which are also designed to bring shipping services to the hinterlands, are also struggling with several challenges, especially the lack of transport infrastructure across the country.

He cited the comatose state of rail transport across the country, which makes road transport the only viable option for the movement of these consignments from the seaports to the IDPs with the attendant high cost, delays and risks, which would have been overcome by putting the containers on locomotive coaches for onward delivery in matter of few hours after arrival at the seaports.

“In addition to these, there are also several others challenges associated with the logistics of moving the consignments, lack of awareness on the part of port services users, especially in the hinterlands of the country, which combined to make the operations of the IDPs more difficult.

“But in all these, ICNL has remained the best and most viable in the country. We are doing a lot towards addressing these challenges, which include but not limited to signing of bilateral agreements to address the logistic problems, embarking on massive sensitisation for port services and they are yielding good results”, Nwabunike also said.