The cost of doing business in Nigerian ports is set to drop significantly, as the country starts a new cargo clearance procedure.
It is expected that in the weeks to come, importers who patronise Nigerian ports will be taking delivery of their goods within the Federal Government’s targeted time frame of 48-hours.
This action, analysts say would impact on the cost of imported goods and reduce prices for consumers.
The Presidential Port Monitoring Committee, set up for this purpose has designed a new clearance procedure called 5-smart steps to cargo clearance.
BusinessDay leant that the procedure which will be IT-driven, is to key into Customs online cargo clearance initiative, which is also IT-based, meaning that ‘Form M’ processing will be electronic, while all the agencies and port operators involved in cargo clearance will be interconnected to a single window.
Our findings further reveal that the proposal is currently before the Economic Management Team from where it will proceed to the Federal Executive Council (FCE) for approval. Once it is passed into law, Nigerian Ports will have a new system of operation, which will be expected to consolidate within six months after government approval is granted.
Also, Customs agents will be issued with passwords with which to access Customs DTI and the portal will ensure that all necessary requirements would have been met before the arrival of cargo. This means that all issues concerning importation would have been resolved before the arrival of the consignments, against the current situation where cargo arrives Nigeria before the bill of laden, RAR or form ‘M’ is issued to importers.
Giving insight to the 5-smart steps approach, Olayiwola Shittu, a member of the committee, told our correspondent that the new clearance procedure is designed to change the face of cargo clearance in Nigeria, decongest the ports, reduce human traffic in the ports and clear cargo within 48 hours, or not more than 72 hours.
According to Shittu, the system had not been previously made public because the committee was sensitising stakeholders, including freight forwarders, Customs, shipping companies, and terminal operators , among others about the procedure.
With this development, before the arrival of any cargo in Nigerian ports, the owners would be expected to have done the declaration, paid the duties, scanned on arrival, and where the goods are subjected to Customs examination, it would be done outside the ports.
Shittu added that for decongestion purposes, cargo would no longer be examined inside the ports.
“Only cargo that meets the requirements will be allowed to be taken direct delivery of, while non-compliant cargo will be escorted either to the designated bonded terminal or to the importers warehouse, where 100 percent physical examination would be conducted, while the containers taken from those terminals will be returned to those terminals, to eliminate the problems with returning of empty containers”.
Analysts are optimistic that the procedure, if properly harnessed, would help to reduce the cost of doing business at the ports, which has been hiked by huge demurrage charges paid by importers to shipping companies and terminal operators, due to prolonged clearing practices.
Tony Anakebe, managing director of a clearing and forwarding outfit, advised the government to ensure that the new procedure was signed into law, so that the current 14-days cargo clearance would be reduced to two days.
He hinted that Maersk Line currently issues invoices online and as it stands, both shipping companies and terminal operators will be issuing invoices online to streamline clearing processes.
Currently terminal operators charge N4,000 per 20 feet container and N8,000 per 40 feet, as demurrage, and with two weeks cargo dwell time at the port, an importer who has 20 feet and 40 feet containers to clear, pays not less than N56,000 and N112,000 as demurrage to terminal operators alone. This is excluding the demurrage charges to be paid to shipping companies not returning empty containers to them, but with 48-hour cargo clearance, all will be history.