From Godwin Obi, Lagos
THE Federal Government is assiduously currently working on a comprehensive waiver package to boost the patronage of the Eastern ports by Nigerian importers, as pragmatic first step to alleviate the traffic congestion on the Lagos ports
Impeccable sources from the Federal Ministry of Transportation hinted the National Light that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had been directed to swing into action in this regard.
It was gathered that Onne port, Warri port, Burutu port, Sapele port, Escravos and Forcados petroleum terminals, among others are some of the Eastern ports set to benefit from this development include;.
The current move is being taken in view of the recent revelation that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over the years has failed to structure import duty collection to encourage shippers at the Eastern ports to patronize the ports or make shippers to choose the ports as ports of destination for their cargoes, a committee comprising all the stakeholders in the port tariff pricing could be on the way with NPA as the pivot point.
Data from NPA shows that the Lagos ports comprising the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC), Apapa and the Tin Can Island Ports (TCIP), Apapa handled 97 percent of the total containers that berthed in Nigerian ports in 2016. Only 3 percent was cleared in Rivers port, Onne Port, Delta port, Calabar port, Warri port, Koko port.
Stakeholders have severally blamed the concentration on Lagos ports on shallow waters, long channels of other ports, politics and industrialization as factors which have necessitated the choice of Lagos as the port of destination for most cargoes.
Meanwhile, this has had significant negative impact on the infrastructure at the Lagos ports, with the overflow effect on the environment, poor port access roads, dilapidated facilities and the increasing loss of patronage of the Nigerian ports by Nigerian shippers and the neighbouring landlocked countries such as Chad, Niger, among others.
In order to enhance the role of government in boosting patronage of Eastern ports, as well as decongesting the Lagos ports, the NPA is developing a tariff structure for cargo haulage by rail and land transport to all the designated Inland Container Depots (ICDs) also called dry ports in the country to encourage the use of the dry ports by shippers. Of particular interest is to ensure that the use of rail system is encouraged to make the cargo delivery cheaper and faster.
This is coming at the time ICD operators have complained about the seeming sabotage of their facilities by the terminal operators, necessitating the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) intervention as the facilitators of the dry ports in the country. As a result, NSC had called a series of meeting of dry ports and terminal operation stakeholders in the country.