Several Roll On Roll Off (RORO) vessels destined to berth at the Ports and Terminal Multiservice Limited (PTML) and Five Star Logistics Terminal, Tin-Can Island Port, Apapa, are currently trapped at Cotonou Ports.
Investigations have revealed that the vessels were stranded due to the two weeks protest embarked upon by clearing agents over the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), policy introduced by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on imported vehicles.
It was further gathered that the protest that led to shutdown of port activities had led to trapping of over 12,000 vehicles in the two ports.
Vehicle importers have also said due to the congestion at the port, RoRo vessels that are supposed to berth at Lagos Port and discharge vehicles are currently stranded at Cotonou Port due to congestion at Lagos Ports.
Also, with the two weeks strike, importers have incured over N600 million storage charges at the RoRo terminals. It was also gathered that the evacuation of general cargoes have also been grossly affected at Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT), Ports and Cargo and even Josepdam also affected by the protests.
Speaking on this development, President of Ndigboamaka Progressive (Market) Association, Dr. Jude Ringo Okeke said the regime of the VIN should be suspended indefinitely.
He said, “The introduction of VIN valuation policy was not to the knowledge of importers. Our agents have limited authority to commit us in decision making. We are with them in this VIN regime. So, the Customs should serve the importers to our satisfaction at all times.
“We want to be consulted in major decisions affecting our businesses. We shall not hesitate to shut down the markets if decisions like this involving the traders, importers and majorly the public without our input as critical stakeholders is taken.
“Our colleagues in the freight forwarding business have been having a bitter experience with the Customs and other Government agencies in the clearing of our consignments,” he said.
However, Chairman of SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol said that the VIN regime must be discarded and be suspended immediately
According to him, Customs must make sure that all the trapped vehicles are given accelerated clearance from the ports without major demurrages because importers did not create the challenge.
“These 12000 vehicles attract daily demurrages and shipping line charges and that is quite enormous and by the time you quantify how much importers are paying for demurrages, it is amounting to over N600 million. We cannot continue to accommodate such expenses anymore
“Never in the history has the Nigerian Customs Service made over N1 trillion as Customs duty and now they are making N2 trillion. Is that not enough for them? The VIN policy is pathetic and we think enough is enough,” he said.