Archive: Feb 2014

  1. New e-payment system will reduce ship waiting time, says NPA

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    The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has said that the newly introduced on-line real time payment system at the nation’s seaport will, in addition to blocking possible revenue leakages, reduce the waiting time of ships that call at the ports thereby crashing cost of doing business.

    The new electronic payment system developed by Interswitch enables stakeholders and other port users to pay for shipping charges, levies and even fines online real time either from the comfort of their offices or at any branch of banks operating in the country, which eliminates the delays awaiting for payments to clear before services could be rendered to the stakeholder.

    Under the current arrangement, using the Interswitch platform, any payment for shipping services for any of the nation’s seaports is transmitted immediately to the Chief Port Accountant, who also immediately alerts the Port Manager for the service to be discharged unlike the former situation whereby the ports wait for two to three days for confirmation from the headquarters in Lagos before services were rendered.

    Managing of Director of NPA, Mallam Habib Abdullahi, who spoke at a one-day sensitization for the new payment system, said that the current management had been worried over the poor payment system at the ports, which he said does not reflect current realities in the global shipping business.

    He said acknowledges the challenges faced by its customers and other stakeholders in making paymentsfor business dealings, adding that the management had been inundated with complaints of delays in confirming payments, which lead to vessel delays and other harrowing experiences.

    He said: “We have therefore responded with a solution that guarantees multiple payment cannels and reduces reconciliation challenges to the barest minimum”.

    The NPA chief executive said that on assumption of office, the management began to seek ways of improving the revenue of the authority without compromising efficiency and to provide comfort to its customers, a development that was informed by the realization that there is a direct correlation between the levels of revenue collected and her capacity to provide infrastructural facilities.

    “The management therefore unveiled the following broad initiatives to deliver our vision for the overall transformation of the Nigerian port industry,” Abdullahi said.

    Giving a background to the introduction of the scheme, the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of NPA and the initiator of the scheme, Mr. Olumide Oduntan disclosed that the current NPA management on assumption of office identified the three pillars that are critical to transformation of port operations as human resources, technology and process.

    He added that before now, when payment is made it takes between three to four days for it to be confirmed because it has to be taken to the headquarters by customers and the headquarters will now send it through courier to the ports. The new system he said will eliminate that process as payments will now be confirmed as soon as it is made on same day.

    Stakeholders at the launching described the system as a landmark for port operations and commended the management of NPA for evolving the system that is designed to deepen port reforms.

    Highlight of the occasion was stimulation and demonstration of the process by shipping agents, the port managers and their accountants and officials of Interswitch Nigeria Limited.


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    MS Allure of the Seas is an Oasis-class cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International. Together with her sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, she holds the record for the largest passenger ship ever constructed, although Allure is 50 millimetres longer than Oasis, making her technically the largest despite the fact that both ships have identical superstructures.

    Designed under the name “Project Genesis”, she was ordered from Aker Finnyards in February 2006 and herconstruction began at the Perno shipyard in Turku, Finland, in February 2008.

    She was named in May 2008 after a contest was held to name her and her sister. The keel of Allure of the Seas was laid on 2 December 2008, shortly after the shipyard had been acquired by STX Europe.

    The keel of Allure of the Seas was laid on 2 December 2008 at the STX Europe shipyards in Turku, Finland, during a ceremony involving Royal Caribbean and STX representatives.

    She was launched on 20 November 2009 and outfitting continued through her departure from the yards. She left the Turku shipyard on 29 October 2010, at 05:45 UTC, heading directly to her future home port of Port Everglades, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

    The ship is equipped with telescoping funnels to pass under bridges such as the Storebælt Bridge, which she passed on 30 October 2010. While media has reported that there was only 30 centimetres of clearance, the truth is that at the mean water level it was closer to 2–3 metres and the much-advertised squat effect, whereby vessels traveling at speed in a shallow channel will be drawn deeper into the water, did not have significant effect on the draft of the vessel.

    On 11 November 2010, Allure of the Seas arrived at her home port of Port Everglades, Florida. She was greeted by thousands of spectators waiting on the shore.

    The ship was formally named by her godmother Princess Fiona on 28 November 2010.

    Princess Fiona is a fictional main character who serves as the female lead in DreamWorks’ animated Shrek film series. She made her first appearance in the first film in the franchise, Shrek (2001), voiced by American actress Cameron Diaz.

    While the design length of Allure of the Seas is the same as that of her sister, 360 metres, she is actually some 50 millimetres longer than the Oasis of the Seas. According to the shipyard, this is not intentional and such small differences in length may occur simply due to the temperature of the steel in a ship as big as this.

    The gross tonnage of the Allure is 225,282 and her displacement — the actual weight of the ship — is equal to that of Oasis, which is estimated to be around 100,000 metric tons, slightly less than that of an AmericanNimitz-class aircraft carrier. Her steel hull alone weighs roughly 54,000 tons.

    The ship features a two-deck dance hall, a theatre with 1,380 seats, an ice skating rink, 7 distinct “neighborhoods”, and 25 dining options, including the first Starbucks coffee shop at sea.

    Many of the ship’s interiors were extensively decorated by muralist Clarissa Parish.

    Before beginning service from Port Everglades, Allure was fitted with an 80 kW solar array by BAM Energy Group which powers the shopping district. The system cost US$600,000 and covers an area of 2,000 square metres. It uses Uni-Solar BIPV laminates designed to withstand foot traffic and marine conditions.


  3. NPA starts transfer of overtime containers from Lagos ports to Ikorodu

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    The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) yesterday commenced the transfer of overtime containers from the various ports in Lagos to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal.

    Overtime containers are loaded imported containers that over stayed beyond the 28 days period allowed by law.

    The Port Manager, Lagos Port, Nasir Anas Mohammed, said in Lagos that the exercise would decongest the port.

    “Moving the overtime containers from the terminals here to Ikorodu lighter terminal is meant to ease the congestion which has lingered on for a little period of time. The overtime containers have caused space constrains inside the terminals and since all the aspects must work together to attain the port operations goal, the movement becomes important and most needed,” he said.

    Mohammed said that the movement had created space for newly imported containers that would be processed for importers.

    The congestion at the ports had been a major concern to stakeholders in the maritime industry over the years as numerous containers were often abandoned at the ports.

    Most stakeholders argued that the owners of such containers used the terminals as warehouses following insignificant charges by the port authorities.

    He said that the transfer would be under the supervision of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Police, the Port Police, the NPA security and operations officers.

    According to him, the transfers were documented and handed over to the customs as soon as they got to the terminal.

    “As soon as the containers get to Ikorodu, they are handed over and left in the care of the customs. We believe that the exercise will create a lot of space in our ports because the terminals have been complaining that they have a lot of overtime containers,” he said.

    He said that the transfer of the overtime containers targeted at the total decongestion of the ports would run for a few weeks

  4. PERISCOPE: Between Okonjo-Iweala and Dikko

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    The wide disparity in the conflicting figures reeled out by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Dikko Abdullahi, has not only become a subject of intense public debate but has further exposed the unhealthy rivalry and power play among top government functionaries in the country.

    The situation raises serious concerns because the Nigeria Customs Service is a paramilitary organisation under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Finance while Okonjo-Iweala, in her capacity as Finance Minister, is the Chairman of the NCS Board.

    Nigerians are concerned that the NCS and Ministry of Finance figures were not harmonised before they were made public.

    The questions that beg for immediate answers at this point border on the integrity of both the Minister and the Customs Comptroller-General.

    Could the country’s Minister of Finance – the most senior and probably the most respected Minister in the Goodluck Jonathan cabinet – have misled the nation by stating that the total amount lost to import dutywaivers over the past three years was N171 billion? Or is the Customs Comptroller-General trying to undermine the authority of the Finance Minister – and possibly discredit her – by deliberately announcing to a gullible public that the nation lost N1.4 trillion to waivers in the same three year period?

    Could there have been a foul play somewhere? Did the Ministry of Finance, which has the powers to grantwaivers and concessions as it deems fit and in line with laid down guidelines – approve waivers worth only N171 billion over the three year period only for such approvals to end up being recycled as was the case when Coscharis Group allegedly used the waivers granted it to supply vehicles to the Lagos State government for the National Sports Festival to import bullet-proof cars for the aviation ministry?

    Is there an existing mechanism between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service tomonitor the utilisation of approved waivers? Does the NCS possess enough capability to validate the waivers granted by the finance ministry?

    Both the Minister of Finance and the Customs Comptroller General must put their differences aside and answer these questions in order to rekindle the trust and confidence of Nigerians in this government. President Goodluck Jonathan must query the duo over the public odium to which they have subjected his government and request immediate explanation which must be made public.

    Due to the enormity of the amount involved, the President will also do well to institute a formal probe into the matter and make public the outcome of such probe.

    What has become immediately clear in all these, however, is the serial abuse import duty waivers have been subjected to.

    Politicians, businessmen and religious leaders have continued to collude to undermine the nation’s economy through the issuance of fraudulent waivers.

    Duty is a tax levied on imports by the customs authorities to generate revenue and to protect domestic industries from more efficient or predatory competitors from abroad. Such duty is charged generally on the value of goods or upon the weight, dimensions or some other criteria of the item. Waiving such duties to well-connected businessmen and political loyalists automatically leads to loss of billions of naira in revenue; money that could have accrued to the public coffers and used for the common good.

    Indiscriminate granting of import duty waivers is not only a drain on the nation’s resources; it is undermining local manufacturing and concentrating the commonwealth in the hands of a privileged few.

    The President will do well to immediately suspend the issuance of waivers until such a time when the integrity of the process can be guaranteed.


  5. PERISCOPE: Delays in cargo clearing

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    The Cargo Defence Fund (CDF) of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) did well last week to organise the second in the series of its roundtables on critical issues affecting shippers. The CDF roundtable was hosted by the Minister of Transport Senator Idris Umar, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Engr. Nebolisa Emordi.

    I managed to spend about an hour at the event before leaving and I must commend the NSC and CDF for a job well done. Platforms for frank talks like the CDF roundtable will help a great deal in building trust, mutual understanding and resolution of conflicts.

    I stumbled on a stakeholder who said he had wanted to see me for over six months. She complained that I was difficult to pin down. She was quite happy to see me and we discussed matters of mutual benefit. That is how it works; the roundtable can become a place to meet people who might ordinarily be difficult to see.

    I did not speak during the discussion. I was content with listening to all the knowledgeable speakers and learning from their experiences which they freely shared.

    If I had spoken, I would have hammered on one major causes of delay at our port; vessel inspection.

    Checks on ships at berth are statutory and are carried out all over the world but these vital components ofport operation are being grossly abused on a daily basis and with impunity at our seaports. The checks carried out at our ports by security agencies are often abused and fraught with corruption.

    Typically, after a long voyage and upon arrival at a port, Customs officers will board and rummage a ship. To rummage a ship means to search it and ensure that duty-free goods and goods that do not comply with the laws of the country of the host port do not find their way out of the vessel.

    Usually, the Customs officer in charge of boarding and rummaging will seal the bar and other storage areas leaving only what is necessary for the crew to survive while at port. Apart from Customs, Port Health Serviceofficials and immigration officers also board. The Port Health officers ensure that communicable diseases are not transmitted from the ship to the host community through goods or persons while immigration officers board to ensure compliance with the nation’s immigration laws. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) also inspects for Port State Control.

    In other climes, all of these checks are carried out simultaneously and will typically last for about an hour. I raised the alarm not long ago that our checking officers keep the vessel waiting for an average of four hours translating to huge financial implication to the Nigerian economy.

    In shipping, time is money and the longer you keep the ship in port, the more cost it incurs and shipping lines will rightly factor this into what they charge as freight.

    My recommendation had been that while these statutory checks are going on, stevedoring operation should commence to save the ship time and money.

    Now apart from the time factor, our officers also do not conduct themselves in the best professional manner when they board these vessels.

    The Nigerian factor has crept in as they practically go cap in hand to the ship captain using everything within their official powers to rip off the captain and his crew of valuable commodities. They even go as far as asking for money from some ship captains. You will see some of these officers emerging from the vessel with cartons of goods and bottles of choice wine.

    The other aspect of the activities of our security agencies which is worrisome is sampling of regulated goods. This process has also been heavily abused by our security operatives.

    Typically, officials of the Nigeria Customs Service; the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) take samples of regulated imported items for test to ensure compliance with safety standards. Several items including electrical/electronic items, household items, liquor, building materials and other commodities fall under goods that are so tested by the regulatory bodies.

    One would have thought that one or two pieces of such goods that require testing will be sufficient to take to the laboratory but what we see at the port today is massive looting by officials of these agencies in the name of sample collection. They collect the items in large quantity and they don’t return them even after the so-called tests are concluded.

    It is another form of corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian nation. And woe betides the importer or agent who refuses to cooperate with these unscrupulous government officials.

    You see these officials gleefully stuffing their vehicles everyday with all manner of items which they take home and distribute to their families and friends. Some are even taken as offering and gifts to churches and pastors. The so-called samples never get to the laboratory;

    they end up in personal homes.

    It is corruption at its highest level. What I call “Authority Stealing”, apologies to the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

    It is not enough to blame shipping companies, terminal operators, service providers and the rest. The CDF will do well to commission an investigation into this and find ways of address this twin problem.

    If CDF is able to assist in cutting down the time vessels spend waiting for inspection at the port and on the barefaced stealing carried out in the name of sampling; cost and time will be saved and the shippers will be the beneficiaries.

  6. Tin can surpasses Apapa in Customs revenue, Generates N21.5bn in January

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    The Tin Can Island Port command of the Nigeria Customs Service has stepped up its revenue drive with a collection of N21.5 billion in January beating the Apapa Area Command which generated N19 billion in the same month.

    Before now, the Apapa Area Command was the highest generating command in the country.

    Customs Area Controller of the command. Comptroller Jubril Zakari said in a statement yesterday that the command generated N12.4 billion from import duty and other fees into the federation account while collection into the non-federation account stood at N3.1 billion.

    He said although the command is the second highest in terms of revenue generation after Apapa, the amount it generated last month represents the highest in the various customs formation in the zone.

    A breakdown of the collection shows that N25 million was collected as import duty on rice, N405 million on wheat grains and N90 million on sugar among others.

    He said N1 billion was generated from the Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate (NDCC) during the month under review.


  7. Customs chief begs Cross River govt over Tinapa

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    The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has appealed to relevant government agencies to ensure that the vision of the Tinapa Business Resort is not allowed to die. Controller, Cross River State Command of NCS, Comptroller Bamidele Akande, made this appeal on Friday when he led his team on a courtesy visit to the State Security Adviser, Mr. Rekpene Bassey, at the Government House, in Calabar.
    Akande, who listed the challenges facing the resort to include the deplorable road network leading to Calabar and shallow waterways, said the sustenance of Tinapa required qualitative institutional support.
    He emphasised the need to actualise the vision of Tinapa Resort, especially now that it had been taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria.
    He said: “There is need to revive and bring life to the port and this will create employment opportunitiesthrough road haulage, clearance of goods and increase in trading activities.
    “We have identified some key factors causing the lull in economic activities in the state. The bad road is one of them. We have seen that the government is doing very well in terms of providing good roads within the city, but the problem is the road linking the state to other states. There are very bad sections and this is really affecting economic activities adversely.
    “The road is a serious problem as we have been in touch with businessmen in Abia and other neighbouring states but the complaints have been that they cannot come here to do business because of the bad road. Another problem is the dredging of the Calabar channel. Something should be done about it urgently.”
    In his response, the state security adviser pleaded with the Federal Government to fulfil its promise of dredging the Calabar waterways.


  8. Benin Republic, Cameroon crash import duty on rice to cash in on Nigeria’s folly

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    Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, the Republic of Benin and Cameroon have crashed the import duty payable by importers of rice in their countries to take advantage of Nigeria’s burgeoning market, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively reveal.
    Investigation by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that as soon as Nigeria increased the customs duty and levy payable on imported rice to 110% last year, Benin Republic crashed its own tariff from 35% to a paltry seven per cent while Cameroon introduced a zero per cent duty policy on the commodity, down from 10 per cent.
    Analysts believed that the move by both countries was aimed at taking advantage of the huge Nigerianmarket where parboiled rice is a staple food. In the entire West African region, only Nigerians eat parboiled rice.
    The result of the measures by both countries is the total diversion of all rice vessels meant for Nigeria to these and other neighbouring countries including Togo and Ghana.
    Investigation by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY revealed that in 2013 when the 110% tariff policy was introduced only one rice ship berthed in the country as against over 500 in 2012.
    Area Controller, Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Charles Edike, told journalists recently that the NCS was losing huge revenue as a result of the hike in rice import duty.
    Edike disclosed that the command’s revenue on rice has plunged to an all time low as it has recorded zeroincome on imported rice since July last year. He said the hike in the import duty of rice to 110 per cent by the Federal Government early last year had impacted negatively on the Apapa Command revenue.
    “The glory of Apapa Port is rice. The bulk of Apapa revenue is rice but now rice is not coming in at all,” he said.
    He said the command collected a paltry N11 million by the end of November 2013 as import duty on rice compared to N131.38 billion collected in 2011 and N125.35 billion in 2012. ENL Consortium, which handles most of the rice cargo imported into the country is facing a difficult time as all its 11 berths are empty.
    As a result of the strategy adopted by the neighbouring countries, Nigeria lost all its annual import of two million metric tonnes of rice to them.
    Checks at the Cotonou Port revealed that the port handled an unprecedented 2.2 million metric tonnes of rice in 2013 compared to 650,000 metric tonnes it handled in 2012. A trade analyst at Seme Border, Didier Kouandete, said that most of the imported rice from Cotonou find their way into Nigeria.
    Koundate, who is also a cargo consolidator at Counou Port said: “I believe about 1.6 million metric tonnes of the rice imported into Benin must have been moved by road into Nigeria because all of it is parboiled rice and we don’t eat parboiled rice in Benin. Also, there is no way Benin could have consumed all that quantity in one year.”
    He said rice is brought into Nigeria enroute neighbouring countries largely due to the high import duty on rice in Nigeria even as he said the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) appears helpless as the trend continues to the benefit of the neighbouring countries.
    He said large trailers, which can carry between 60,000 and 72,000 tonnes of rice are now used to haul smuggled rice into the country from the Cotonou ports. About 70 of such articulated trucks bring rice into Lagos alone on a daily basis, he said, stressing that the smugglers have taken over rice business in the country.
    The illegal way of moving goods across borders is eating deep into Nigeria, crippling the country’s economy. Observers say the federal government’s loss owing to unlawful importation of rice through the nation’s land borders may peak at N300 billion this year should the status quo remain. Recently, the Rice Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RIDAN) expressed worry about the disturbing spate of rice smuggling into the country and appealed to the federal government to do something drastic about it.
    Director, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Prof. Tunji Akande, said that since the mid-1970s, rice consumption in Nigeria has risen tremendously, at about 10 percent per annum due to changing consumer preferences, stressing that per capita consumption of rice during the 1980’s averaged 18kg and reached 22kg in 1995-1999. He said domestic production has never been able to meet the demand, leading to considerable imports which stand at over two million metric tonnes yearly.


  9. Develop Cabotage locally to solve problems of seatime training, Folarin urges FG

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    Chairman of the Port Consultative Council (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin has advised the Federal Governmentto develop Cabotage within the country’s territorial waters in other to solve the problem of seatime trainings facing Cadets.
    Folarin, while speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, urged the Federal Government to provide training ship for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State.
    Folarin said, “It may not accommodate all the graduates but it will be a start in the right direction. It is a major issue, if you look at the huge trade generated by Nigerians and the number of ships that carry thosetrades; if Nigerians are taking only five per cent of that opportunity, then we could have created over 4,000 employment,” he said.

    The PCC boss advised Nigerian shipping companies to look for alternative way to fund the acquisition and repair of ships beyond the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, (CVFF).
    Otunba Folarin said this alternative is expedient in order for the indigenous companies to remain in business.
    According to him, “Since we don’t know when the government will disburse the CVFF, I advise the indigenous ship owners to look for alternative ways to fund ship building and ship repair.
    Giving the alternative, the PCC Chairman said, “The easiest alternative is joint ventures, time charter, slot charter and the rest. Like the massive transformation going on in the power sector, our ship owners should be able to use ships to service the power project, they can use their ships to import turbines that will be used in the power sector.
    “Iif indigenous shipping companies cannot buy ship, they can do slot charter in which they buy a space in another ship to bring cargoes into the country.
    “With slot charter, the shipping company can issue bill of lading for the containers they brought into the country and this will on the longrun provide a huge amount of profit for the shipping companies.”
    The PCC boss also stated that any company that engages in this type of alternative would find it very easy to get investors that would help them acquire new ships.
    “If investors financing acquisition of ships know that you have goods you freight regularly and they know that you have reasonable amount of money due to the businesses you are doing, it will be easy for them to finance your ship acquisition,” he said.


  10. Customs extends provisional release deadline by two weeks

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    The Nigeria Customs Service has confirmed an extension to its January 31st deadline for provisional release of cargoes granted importers and their agents by two weeks.

    SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had reported exclusively yesterday that due to the backlog of yet to be processedRisk Assessment Report (RAR) applications and complaints from agents that it takes up to weeks to get approval of the provisional release; the service may have a rethink to extend the deadline.

    Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY yesterday said a total number of 4,000 of the 99,300 RAR’s applications inherited by the Service from the three service providers firm namely: Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited, Global Scansystem and SGS are yet to be processed hence the service has granted an extension of two weeks to clear the back log.

    “The extension is to enable us clear the remaining backlog. We still have about 4,000 applications still pending. So in the next two weeks starting from the end of January, we should be able to start on a clean state” he said.

    Adeniyi said at the expiration of the grace period, the backlog would have been cleared and PAAR will be issued as expected.

    “The whole idea of the concession is for them not to wait for PAAR. When you have 99,000 RAR’s been processed at a time, there will be bottle neck and the system will be choked. So at the expiration of the extension, if there are those that have not entered overtime, it means they will now have to process the regular PAAR to clear their goods” he said.

    He said the extension is not limited to Tin Can Island Port command but cut across the nation’s seaports.