By Godfrey Bivbere & Ebuka Oko
SOME port users, especially, importers, Shippers and exporters have cried out over damages suffered during the clearing process at major private port terminals without any form of compensation. Shippers
A port user, who spoke to Vanguard Maritime Reports on the condition of anonymity, said: “This is happening because they have the notion that importers or Shippers do not have options, as they are the only bulk cargo receiver in Apapa, and also the largest terminal.
“So, no matter how they treat you, you must come back. If not, I do not see how a terminal like that which receives the highest number of bulk cargoes in the country does not have machines – folk lifts and other machinery.
“Year in year out, it might interest you to know that this particular terminal operator still uses forklifts that they got from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, as at the time of the concession. And these machines break down at intervals. As we speak now, after you pay so much as terminal handling charges, you go into the port and see where they merge four ‘receivers’ to one folk lift!
“It will then, take you months to get your goods because sometimes, each receiver has like 400 or 500 trailers to load; and if they merge you with another receiver that has cargo for 200 trailers; you can then work out the average per day.
“On average, it could be two trucks per receiver a day! And on this one month, they are receiving terminal charges, demurrage, rent even though you are not the cause of the delay!
“As for (cargo) damage, do not go there! This is because it is heartbreaking when you go to the terminal operator and see what they do to people’s cargo because they feel we do not have a second option.
“Take a trip there; you will see the marks of the tyres of forklifts on people’s cargoes. Sometimes, it is like, a forklift operator purposely climbs a cargo! There are often, cargoes scattered all over the place; and they tell you they do not have enough GSI – that is, the people they hire to tidy up, or repack scattered cargo etc. At the end of the day, we spend between N5,000 and N10,000 paying our own labour, to repack these cargoes; and it is heartbreaking!”
Speaking in the same vein, another stakeholder (Shippers), who also deals on bulk cargo, Chief Metu of Mevano Nigeria Limited, said it was perhaps needless blaming the terminal operator, as the major culprit was the inadequacy of storage space, noting that goods have exceeded available space.
“The issue is that it is not only ENL, but it also has to do with most of the terminals. We normally deal on bulk cargo, and some of these terminal operators do not have enough storage facilities.
“At times, you get to the terminal and you see your cargo, you are sad to see so many imported iron, etc, and they use it and block so many places.
“At times, they use chemicals and block some sheds, they do not have enough storage shades, most times our cargoes, and they will have to store it outside. Water will often damage these cargoes and most of those cargoes are not water friendly.
“Once water touches the MDF board, for example, it starts damaging. Sometimes, at ENL, we incur damages worth millions of Naira! They do not pay for the damage. If you write insurance, you will just keep writing. God knows they don’t respond. It is also happening to many people in Josephdam Tin-Can terminal, where we had the same issues. We have pictures too.
“They stored everybody’s cargo outside, for the rain to beat them. And they do not pay. We have so many cases. We reported and wrote letters. We write to them and copy the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. But, Shipper’s Council will tell you: “we will get to them”. I don’t know if they collaborate with them, I don’t know! And we are paying the storage charges! Storage charges are for them to store the cargo and make sure nothing happens to them! We also pay demurrages. Most times, they won’t have plants or machines to load the cargo.
Similarly, chairman of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Apapa Chapter, Chief Ndubuisi Uzoegbo collaborated what our respondents said. He stated: “The concessionaires have not been handling these issues the way it should.
“These guys now see themselves as small gods. When there is an issue and you write to them and say that you are their customer and that you have gotten damage of N5 million or N6 million, the ENL will form a blind eye.
“They will keep pushing you around for months, years to see if you will get tired of it and give up.”
Reacting to the above, the new port manager, Lagos Ports Complex, NPA, Olufunmilayo Olotu, said that NPA will always insist on best practices in order to put an end to inefficiency at port terminals, especially on issues relating on cargo handling.
She said: “Nigerian Ports Authority will always insist on best practices as port operations is a global phenomenon. We will keep monitoring terminals and we shall not encourage any disposition that will tarnish the image of the Nigerian ports, especially in cargo handling. This is because, if a shipper is not sure that his goods will be safe and secure in your port, then, they will never patronize you. We cannot afford to send out negative signals”.