By NBF News

Freight forwarders have decried the diversion of vessels from the AP Moller Terminal, Apapa to a nearby terminal, as a temporary measure to decongest the backlog of uncleared vessels at the terminal- as directed by the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman.

The President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, said in an interview conducted on the telephone on Monday that the diversion could not be the final solution to the problem at hand. Rather he said, the APMT Terminal should be directed to increase its cargo handling capacity.

He said, 'Diversion of vessels is not the solution to the problem at hand. Though I understand that it is a temporary measure by the minister. I think the solution is for APMT to increase its cargo handling capacity so as to have hitch-free trade facilitation.'

Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Apapa Command, Mr. Dera Nnadi, on Monday said that the Command had lost N6bn revenue in eight days, due to diversion of vessels from APMT Apapa facilities to Tincan Island Port and the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal. He said the Command was losing N750m daily to the directive that was issued on May 24, 2010.

He said,'We need not wait until it becomes a national calamity. Shifting congestion from Apapa port to Tincan or Kirikiri port can only extend the challenge and create business for neighbouring ports in sister countries of the sub-region. Let AP Mollar acquire more equipment and then logically transfer containers to other bonded terminals in Apapa. Nine of them don't have containers for two years.

'The Command handles over 500 TEU's on direct delivery and is expected to collect over N900m daily from both containerised and bulk cargo going by her revenue target for the year 2010, but the actual collection is currently peaked at N750m average daily. With this development, millions of naira may have been lost by the Command daily.'

Recently, the freight forwarders had threatened to go on strike due to allegations of high port charges; inadequate cargo handling equipment and inability of the terminal operator, APMT, to position containers on request.

Nnadi also expressed fears that this trend might continue if urgent measures were not put in place by the APMT management to improve its plant availability as well as service delivery.

According to him, the expectation of the government and the Customs service is that cargo must be delivered out of the ports in 48 hours, as against what is currently obtainable.

He, therefore, urged AP Moller to align with government policy of efficient and effective service delivery.

He said that the Command was committed to trade facilitation as well as reduction of the cost of doing business in the nation's seaports.

He appealed to the management of APMT to consider, urgently, the acquisition of new plants and equipment to facilitate cargo delivery.