Stakeholders kick against arranging cargoes in pallets

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Anna Okon

Dome stakeholder in the maritime industry, including a maritime expert, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, have opposed the new policy directing goods coming into Nigeria be put in wooden pallets. They are of the view that the new arrangement would delay shipment as well as increase importers’ costs.

For instance, Amiwero said that the cost, delay and new procedures accompanying the policy would discourage shipment into Nigeria.

He stated this in his paper on the implications of the revised export/ import guidelines.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said recently that the revised export/import guidelines taking effect from January 1, 2018 would include full implementation of the government’s policy on mandatory palletisation of all containerised cargoes imported into the country.

Explaining the policy at a stakeholders’ meeting, Adeosun, who was represented by the Director, Home Finance, Mrs. Owobunmi  Siyanbola, said it was necessitated by the desire to further promote the ease of doing business in Nigeria in line with Executive Order 1.

She said that the government had focused attention on reducing time spent on processing of exports and imports and the need to ensure 24 hours clearance of cargo.

The Nigeria Customs Service said in May that the delay in processing exports and imports  accounted for the low position of Nigeria on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings, adding that there were complaints about export processes averaging between two and three  weeks in Nigeria, compared to only four  days in Kenya and  other African countries.

The spokesman for the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, said another reason for the delay at the ports during the import process was the haphazard manner in which goods were packed in containers.

He said, “Different types of goods are just dumped in the container and imported into Nigeria, slowing the pace of physical examination and making it impossible for modern equipment to be used to examine containers.

“To solve that problem, shipping lines are now required to ensure that imports into Nigeria are well arranged in pallets. Shipping lines, which fail to palletise cargo will be sanctioned and may be asked to take back onboard the non-palletised cargo.”

But Amiwero pointed out that the mandatory enforcement of palletised goods in containers would reduce the normal shipment into containers and increase the number of containers for each          shipment, due to the space the pallet would occupy.

He said the process would also attract the presence of the plant quarantine officers in the port to regulate the implementation of the International Plant Protection Convention, involving additional cost and increase the process as well as the cost to importers and clearing agents.

Amiwero advised that the government should focus on getting the scanners to function in order to limit physical examination and the use of pallets, which had been restricted in other climes to reduce the carriage of invasive plants and insects into the country.

He also suggested that certain goods, which could not be arranged in pallets such as vehicles and equipment as well as fragile materials and homogenous goods like rice and chemicals should be exempted from the policy.

The Chairman of the International Freight forwarders, Mr. Sunny Nnebe, also said the pallet arrangement of cargoes would increase make importers to incur more costs because it would amount to # carrying less cargo than they should since the pallets would take up most of the space in the container.

According to him, freight charges for goods are the same, no matter the quantity, adding, “The importer will pay charges for fewer goods than he would have wanted to carry.”

Nnebe said the practice was also bound to affect the amount of duty going into the coffers of the NCS, adding that since duty was charged per quantity of cargo, cargo palletised would be lesser than the one that was not, thus attracting less duty.

“The Customs may want to benchmark their duty payment and say people should pay the same amount, no matter the quantity of goods. But it will not work that way. Customs should consider reducing duty, along with the palletisation policy,” he added.

The Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Osita Chukwu, also kicked against the idea, noting that it was an expensive practice.  He said that no moving vessel would accept pallets because there were special cargo vessels meant for that purpose.

He said the pallets were expensive to build and could not be reused.

Chukwu suggested that instead of compelling people to put cargoes in pallets, government should invest in good scanners that could scan long range.

He compared palletisation policy to compelling passengers at the airport to go through surgical operation as a way of testing if there were drugs hidden in their intestines.

He said, “In such a case, how many people can they operate upon to gain access into their intestines? Instead of compelling people to palletise cargo, government should install long range scanners that can scan up to 300 metres and can see everything. If such scanners are installed, all the perpetrators of evil at the ports will stop.”

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