Posted by By Mary Ekah on
In Nigeria, the maritime industry plays a very important role in the economic sector because as consumer nation, Nigeria depends almost totally on the goods that.....
In Nigeria, the maritime industry plays a very important role in the economic sector because as consumer nation, Nigeria depends almost totally on the goods that come through the ports, not withstanding the government’s efforts to discourage importation and encourage exportation and production.
With these high volumes of import and the unnecessary bottlenecks in the clearing process, a lot of goods end up staying longer than necessary at the Ports. This led to a serious congestion of the available space in the ports causing delay even in the discharge of cargo by vessels. The delays also affected the vessels that were to load and sail, causing loss of valuable time and money to ship-owners, agents, importers and exporters.
This development prompted the diversion of Vessels by importers to neighbouring countries like Togo and Cotonou, where the clearing process is faster, resulting in the loss of revenue that would have accrued to the government.
The government at some point, tried to decongest the Ports by setting up a committee for that purpose. It was discovered that some cargoes have spent several months in the Ports, taking up space that would have been used to discharge other vessels.
In search of solution to the problem of congestion in the Ports, the Federal Government introduced Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals in exercise of the power provided for under Section 82 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Chapter 84 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990. The license given to some companies to establish Private Bonded Terminals came as a big relief to stakeholders in the industry.
The Private Bonded Terminals (PBTs) were licensed to provide storage facilities for cargoes, such that once a vessel berths, the container/cargoes are allocated to private terminal operators (PTOs) to store them, while the agents sort out all necessary documentations.
Physical examination by Customs was made easier at the various Private Bonded Terminals. By this, all the delays encountered at the Ports were reduced, if not totally eliminated. The success of the examination regime can be linked to the enabling environment provided by the Private Bonded Terminal Operators.
It was in view of this important role played by the private operators of bonded warehouse that, perhaps, prompted the Association of Bonded Terminals Operators (ABTO) to want to woo more people into the sector.
Consequently, a two-day thematic workshop titled, "Setting up and Operating of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals in Destination Inspections - The Nigerian Experience", was organised at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, during which the shortcomings in the sector were brought to the fore for necessary action to be taken to remedy the situation.
It was indeed a memorable and enlightening two-day workshop as various resource persons spoke on very important subjects. Some of the topics presented at the workshop by some distinguished personalities in the industry included, "International Perspective to setting up and Operating of Bonded Warehouses" by Mr. Charles Cudjoe; "Ethics of Setting up of and Operating Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals", by Mrs. K. Olugbesan; "Risk Management Process, a Tool for a Business Firm", by Mr. Olumide Fatogun; "The Setting up of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals" by Dr. T.Y. Afolabi, chairman/chief executive officer SIFAX; "The Operation of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals" by Mr. Andy Isichei, managing director NACFA; "Efficacy of Setting up of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals", by Mr. Lucky Amiwero, managing director EYS Maritime Ventures; "Legal Aspect of Setting up of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminal by Ms Jean Chiazor Anishere, among others.
The Chairman of the association, Mr. Mike Ayinde in an address said that the workshop would afford stakeholders the opportunity to take a global look at the Nigeria maritime industry and the role played by and being thrust on the ABTO in its movement.
He further said that the workshop was organised to sensitise all operators and the public in order to improve the fibre and accelerate the development of the sector for the good of the country. Ayinde, however, noted that the maritime industry in Nigeria today is in doldrums and required the collective will of all the practitioners and stakeholders to lift it out of its comatose position.
"A cursory look at our ports before the private sector initiative, to wit, the involvement of the Private Bonded Terminal Warehouses/Off Dock Terminal will tell the whole story", Ayinde said. "There was a time when the berths were filled to their brim and yet many vessels were waiting on the waters for days to secure berths. This was the time when pilotage was on 24 hours basis just as stevedoring and shore handling operators were carried on in three shifts; today the situation is different".
Ayinde who said the association knew the factors responsible for the sad state of affairs in the sector, however, noted that it was not the intention of the association to apportion blame but to offer constructive suggestion to fellow operators at the Ports.
"I make bold to say that the Association of Bonded Terminals Operators is living up to its billing, as one of the apex bodies in the maritime sector of the economy for which it is held in high esteem by all those who have the fortune to come across it. As terminal operators, we have displayed the efficiency that private sector initiative in providing services it is noted for", Ayinde said.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. J.G Buba, who was represented by Mrs. A. O. Ogunfowoke of Administration, Yaba, Lagos, said the timing of the two-day workshop was appropriate given that the Destination Inspection just took off in January 2006.
Buba said that in order to appreciate the uniqueness of the workshop, there was a need to highlight the major duties of the Customs Service. He went further to highlight the major duties of the Service, which he said involved trade facilitation; revenue collection and border security in effecting trade facilitation.
Customs, he said, was mindful of the need to allow legitimate trade pass the border promptly, while preventing illegitimate trade, adding, that "in ensuring seamless clearance of goods at the ports/border stations, the appropriate revenue is generated and collected. On the border security each nation and Nigeria with no exception, seriously guard its borders. This is to prevent any act of destabilisation".
The Comptroller General said that by the efficacious manner of handling goods at the bonded warehouses and of dock terminals, Nigerian border has become more comprehensive and complicated and has moved hinterland. He assured that at the end of the two-day workshop, it would be realised that there was more to the definition of border than meets the eye.
"In this era of globalisation of commerce, it is of paramount importance that each nation should show its competitive edge/advantage. This has been the compelling force that has made the Federal Government to continue thinker with the maritime sector in order to find ways to improve it. At the service level the cargo clearance procedure has been enhanced and the Destination Inspection has just taken off. Thus the reason for the existence of Bonded Warehouses/Off Dock Terminals are further testimony of the Customs desire for improvement in the maritime sector", Buba stressed.
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