Shipping companies operating at Nigerian ports are blaming the Nigeria Customs Service for various challenges being experienced in transmission of shipping manifests, they lament that most Customs processes are still done manually.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Committee (PEBEC) had directed that shipping manifests must be transmitted electronically to the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) within seven days.
Speaking at a meeting in Lagos recently, Director, Customer Service Central West Africa of Maersk Line, Razak Ngula said the process of transmitting supplementary manifest is extremely slow.
Also speaking, General Manager, Grimaldi Shipping, Tunde Keshinro said the Customs manifest process needs to be re-engineered because the lodging process is very difficult.
According to him, there is a high level of non-compliance in the industry and this is because customs clearance is highly unregulated and fragmented. He said customs still interface manually with clearing agents despite its automation processes.
He said that the major source of delay in the clearance system is the inefficiency of government agencies working at the port.
"The way customs has programed the manifest lodging process is very difficult; yes, they are doing better in terms of electronic transmission but there are still challenges in that area in terms of cooperation, the manifest process needs to be re-engineered"
"It is always difficult when you have manifest amendment to make, as much as we are laying emphasis on electronic interactions, we still have to physically intervene at every multiple stage.
So we have a situation whereby the automation process is in line, the manual process is a simultaneous process, you cannot get efficiency"
"The other issue that causes delay in the clearance process is because despite the automation process in customs being publicised, we still see a lot of manual interaction in the clearance process" he said
He said that Grimaldi and its terminal; PTML Terminal had to register over 10,000 clearing agents in order to forestall touting at its terminal.
He said that most of the freight forwarding firms operating in Nigeria are not structured and that the structured companies and importers cannot divert their cargoes.
"Anytime I walk around the terminal, I see thousands of people, I see hundreds of people in the Customs office, I do wonder why we read in the papers everyday about e-clearance and that everything is automatic, and yet I see thousands of people discussing with the Customs officers, it means there is something going on"
He also called for the purchase of scanning machines at the ports, saying that "if you have to physically inspect every container, this is another cause of delay, we believe that in a port like Lagos, there should be working scanners"
"There is a high level of non-compliance in the industry and this is because the industry which has to do with custom clearance is highly unregulated and fragmented, that was why I had to register over 10,000 people"
"There should not be more than 60 freight forwarding firms if they are consolidated, but now we have thousands of them, they give you fake names, certificates, addresses. In order to address the challenge, government should adopt the banking reform of president Obasanjo by setting a minimum standard"