Revealed: How Shipping Companies, Traders Shortchange Nigerian Govt. Via Transshipment Of Cargoes

By Stephen Ubanna

 Akutah Pius Ukeyima, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, appears to have given an insight on why the Nigerian government had been losing billions of the North American Continent of the United States, US, dollars, through transshipment of cargoes over the years.

 The NSC, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who spoke at an interactive session with the League of Maritime Editors, LOME, during a courtesy call had said that ”the volume of cargo traffic   recorded as having  passed through the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-can Island, Port Terminal Multi-services Limited, PTML, KiriKiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I and II and the south eastern ports of Onne, Rivers port, PortHacourt; Delta Port , Warri and Calabar port in Cross river state are not trustworthy.

Maritime analysts had described cargo transshipment as ‘’a pivotal process within the intricate web of the global maritime trade that refers to the transfer of cargo from one vessel to another while the goods are on transit’’. Take for instance an oceangoing vessel laden with  Containers from the Asian country of China bound for the Nigerian ports ,  according to an informed source  makes  several stops  along the way  to transfer the cargo into a smaller vessel that can navigate  through narrower  passages  or reach  the expected destinations with shallower craft s more easily.

A transshipment vessel at Leeki deep sea port

A source at NSC told The Value News that the transshipment is executed in an intermediate port or anchorage for several reasons and which currently plays a crucial role in optimizing logistics and trade efficiency in most maritime nations across the maritime world. Late last June, Leikki port had received two transshipment vessels laden with Containerized cargoes.

The two largest Container shipping companies in the world, CMA-CGM and Maersk Lines were said to have brought in the cargoes to the Lekki deep seaport. The  CMA-CGM vessel, particular, was said to have offloaded 411  20ft Containers, equivalent TEUs  of transshipment  bound for the Autonomous port of Cotonou, Benin Republic.

Recall that the Management of NPA, had said that with the establishment of the Lekki deep seaport, Nigeria is now poised ‘’to emerge as the maritime logistics hub in handling transit and transshipment cargoes  to other ports within the country and the neighbouring  countries in the West African sub-region.

Many  believe that ‘’there is no way transshipment of cargos from a bigger vessel to a smaller vessel could take place  without ‘’ the precise coordination between the various shipping companies, port officials and Customs operatives to e ensure seamless transfer of the cargo at the Nigerian ports.

Given the persistent transshipment of cargoes from bigger ships to smaller ships that are usually transferred to the nations seaports, particular, Delta port, which have a shallow craft channel that had been reduced from seven meters to three meters in some places may have informed why Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director of NPA, and his Management team were said to have moved speedily to address the Delta port craft problem to attract bigger ocean-going vessels to the port.

Maritime stakeholders had said that the Delta port shallow draft had been there over the years, which may have  informed why most of the Multi-national shipping companies   find it   extremely difficult to take their large ocean going vessels laden with Containes of’’ 20ft and 40ft’’ to the nation’s shallow ports to avoid running aground along the channels. 

Although NPA Management had  concluded the mapping  and charting of the about 107km   Excravos channel  around the Delta port  which was said to have started from ‘’ the fairway buoy  down to Koko port, but stakeholders had said that these was how far the agency could go.

This may have encouraged Emmanuel Jime, a former Executive Secretary/ CEO, of NSC, to pursue vigorously the approval of the  Cargo Tracking Note, CTN, Law by former President Muhammadu Buhari ‘’to be able  to track  the goods coming to the Nigerian ports by getting  the accurate  bill of lading generated when  a Container is sent out for transshipping and to track the departure , location,  time of arrival  and other vital  information about the second vessel to facilitate their investigation’’.  

He may have had his way as the then Federal Executive Council, FEC, under the Chairmanship of Buhari had in February, 2023, approved the implementation of the CTN, for the nation’s seaports. The Then Katsina state born Nigerian President was optimistic that the operations of the CTN willhelp to plug all the areas of revenue leakages at the seaports and even generate between $90 million to $235million yearly for the government.  

  Ukeyima,  the current NSC CEO  was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that the implementation of the CTN, as approved by the past government  would enhance the  revenue generation  situation of the relevant government agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS,   NPA  and  NSC.

 The NSC helmsman is emphatic that the implementation of the CTN    will assist the agency ‘’to effectively monitor the trade coming into the country on a daily basis which was long overdue’’. The NSC boss, who appears to have based his optimism on the promise of Adegboyega Oyetola, a former governor of Osun state and now minister of Marine and Blue Economy, who had said   that his Administration is committed actively’’ to working towards the implementation of the CTN and to reassure industry stakeholders that the agency will deliver on the CTN package   in the first quarter of 2024, ‘’to enhance the efficiency of business operations at the nation’s seaports’’.

Insiders had said that the implementation of the CTN, as approved by the Buhari’s Administration   and the establishment of the proposed National Fleet for the country by the Nigerian Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bshir Jamoh, OFR, will enhance the revenue generation of NSC particular,, with ‘’the actualization of the remittance of one percent freight stabilization fee on import and export to the agency as enshrined in the agency Subsidiary Legislation’’.

 Note that past and present Leadership of the NSC, may have taken the issue of the operation of the CTN, seriously because of the alleged abandonment of over 6,000 Containers, comprising both ‘’20ft and 40ftContainers’’ mostly  at the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin-can Island alone which may have been discharged at the ports through transshipment.

 Ndeed, the refusal of the owners of the abandoned Containers that litter the Lagos ports and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, used for safekeeping of overtime cargoes to summon the courage to process heir documents to take delivery of their Containers clearly shows that they have jettisoned because of lack of documents to claim it. They may have realized that it is no ,onger business as usual  because of the tight security at the terminals and the  fear that NSC, might swing into action with the operation of the CTN at any time.

Investigations by The Value News online Magazine reveals that the  CTN is being resisted  by the maritime industry stakeholders, particular, importers with their agents on the grounds  that’’ it will  increase  the cost of doing business  at the nation’s seaports and invariably  the cost  of goods and services, that would further aggravate the country’s  inflation rate  which is currently a little  over 26%.   

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