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Agents protest over imposition of charges

AGAINST the backdrop of allegations that terminal operators especially APM Terminal imposed arbitrary charges on imports even after delay in clearance of such imports was caused by the terminal operators, the Minister of Transport Senator Idris Umar has said that representatives of key players in the goods clearing process will soon be invited for a dialogue to find a lasting solution to the matter.

The allegation over imposition of illegal charges is comingon the heel of announcement by the Managing Director of APMT Mr. Hampton thatthe terminal now runs more efficiently than ever before with no significant waiting time for vessels to berth thus making it unnecessary to transfer containers to bonded terminals.

The Minister who paid an unscheduled visit to Apapa port on his way to inspect the port access road at Tin-Can Island was first attracted by the long queue of trucks at the port gate which recently caused serious traffic jam.

On making enquiries during a stopover at APM Terminal an Agent Mr. Salma Fatai stated that “I was booked by officials of APMT for scanning on January 15, this year but the date was later deferred to January 21 this at the instance of APMT”.

Continuing he said “demurrage for the additional six days the the container stayed at the terminal was charged as part of the fee before the container was scanned.nother Agent Mr. KinsleyBiggy said management of APMT has despite the shortage in the number of cargo handling equipment, adopted a deliberate policy not to transfer containers to bonded terminals so that demurrage can accrue on such imports.

He alleged that terminal charges start counting as soon as a vessel is berthed and not three    days after offloading as stipulated by the law adding that it takes at least three weeks to clear a consignment at APMT as against reduced waiting time for vessels/ clearing, announced by the company.

But in a swift reaction Managing Director APMT Mr.Dallas Hampton disclosed that the company had no significant waiting time for vessels for the last Nine months even as vessels are able to berth at the terminal shortly after arrival at the port.

“We are also seeing a reduction in imported container dwell time due to a number of reasons, not least of which are the company's improved systems for positioning of containers for scanning although the sheer quantity of containers requested by Nigerian Customs for physical inspection remains a challenge,” the APM boss said

He said that the company recently introduced a new enhancement for customers who are able to accurately nominate their containers for x-ray scanning prior to Customs confirmation.

According to him “We if we can have accurate information about which containers need

x- ray scanning we can have them scanned much earlier and allow customers to take delivery of their goods several days sooner, rather than the usual system of waiting for Customs to review and nominate”, Hampton stated.

According to him the company is also planning to introduce a new multi level container inspection facility later this year that will be operated by yard cranes in order to increase capacity for physical inspections.

The APMT boss stated further that the lower volumes and reduced container dwell time have eliminated the need to transfer containers to off dock facilities noting that the  low volume imports experienced since the second half of last year will continue into first quarter of this year.

Apart from low volume of container import, the biggest challenge for container terminal operators at present, according to Hampton, is overcapacity and underutilization.

He said container volumes in Lagos recorded a marginal increase of about three percent in 2012 as against an increase of 25 percent recorded in 2011.

“We projected 700,000 TEUs in 2012 but we handled only 650,000 TEUs only a slight increase above the 2011 figure of 628,000 TEUs”, he disclosed.

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