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COVID -19: Container congestion looms at Nigerian port

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CARGO congestion is currently looming at the Tin Can Island Port of Lagos, as the port has been hit by container crisis following lack of space by terminal operators to stack imported cargoes, thereby creating problems for importers and clearing agents.

  National Light investigations showed that the crisis was caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which hindered many agents from coming forward to take delivery of their containers.

  A terminal operator, however, confirmed exclusively to our correspondent that space constraint has remained a major challenge faced by terminal operators at Tin Can Port.

  Already, anxiety is building up at the  port as clearing agents continually incur demurrage from shipping companies and even the terminal operators due to their inability to locate containers whenever they are needed by the owners.

  Prince Segun Oduntan, Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tin Can Port Chapter, told our correspondent that agitated agents had clashed with Ports and Cargo recently over the challenge and this led to fracas between the agents and the labour.

  “It has led to crisis and fighting last week. I had to go over there and resolve it. They called the labour, setting them against the agents. I told the labour that agents are customers; they have reason to complain if they are not being served well,” he said.

  Mr Emmanuel Onyeme, a member of ANLCA explained that agents are suffering what he called “No Location” by terminal operators.

  “When we try to book for our container, they would tell you that there is ‘No location’ that  the container has been placed on block stacking. You keep waiting for at least three weeks. After the three weeks, they would still charge you demurrage after they have accumulated demurrage for you at shipping companies.

  “After the examination, when you want to take delivery of the container and load it out, they would tell you again that they cannot find the container for another two weeks. It has become a recurring incident and we have had several meetings.

  “The Nigerian Shippers Council must come and intervene on this crisis. Importers have borrowed money to do their business which has a time frame. If they don’t return the money with interest, the contract would be terminated”

  Also speaking with National Light, Mr. Adebowale Bare lamented that the terminal operators are trying to chase importers out of business and destroy the economy of Nigeria.

  “Terminal operators are extorting the operators when they bring in a vessel and discharge the containers. At the end of the day, they would tell us there is no location. Whose responsibility is it to locate the containers?

  “After block stacking containers, they would now be unable to locate the exact place the container is. You can be on no location for two weeks, and they would be charging demurrage.

 Shipping companies would also be charging demurrage for their own negligence and nonchalant attitude.

  They are accommodating more than their capacity, they stack containers and they are unable to get the location.

  “It is caused by greed, the terminal operators have accommodated more than their capacity. They should be well organised and stack containers accordingly in line with international practice,” he said.

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