In a frantic move to arrest the embarrassing congestion which has already reared its head in Lagos ports, the Nigeria Customs Service has exempted containers moving to off-dock facilities from the being subjected to scanning.
The order to jettison the all-important scanning of containers was handed down to port users including: shipping companies, ports concessionaires as well as operators of bonded terminal at a meeting which held recently in Lagos.
Seen as a major departure form the letters of the regime of destination inspection which Nigeria adopted about four years ago, the new directive may open the system of inspection of imports to further abuse by unscrupulous customs officers and licensed customs agents.
Confirming the development in a statement in Lagos last week, the public relations officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Wale Adeniyi explained that the Nigeria Customs Service has decided that henceforth, “containers on transfer to bonded terminals will no longer be scanned to eliminate the long waiting queue at the scanning sites. Such containers will henceforth be subjected to physical inspection by examination officers in the bonded terminals, before release”.
In addition to this, the Service has also disclosed that it would restructure the present system of receiving manifests from shipping companies. In its place a central server is to be established for the submission of manifests.
The central server will be used for treating electronic manifests for all vessels berthing in Lagos seaports.
The statement added that the single-window manifest concept is one of the steps to be taken by the Service as a pro-active measure to address the congestion problem.
Shipping Position Weekly learnt that the Customs boss, Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed had expressed optimism that the single window concept will eliminate the present bureaucratic problems that are associated with stemming down of vessels from the ports to off -dock facilities.
He reportedly frowned at the failure of bonded terminals to take the pressure off the ports because of the existing inflexible manifest submission regime.
Another urgent measure which the Customs boss decided on was that henceforth, all containerized cargoes that are destined for Tin-Can Island Port and which could not be discharged due to space constraints should be transferred to any available bonded terminals, even if such facilities are attached to other ports other than Tin Can port..
The meeting, according to the Customs image maker also agreed that shipping companies must now submit electronic manifest in the format that have been prescribed by Customs, at least 72 hours before the arrival of vessels to allow time for pre-clearance activities.
Other decisions include the fact shipping companies must stop the existing practice of converting valuable space inside the ports to facilities for stacking export-bound empty containers. The meeting was said to have also agreed to review the capacity of existing holding bays outside the ports for stacking of empty containers.
Similarly, Customs Area Controllers were empowered to invoke provision of Section 13 of the Customs and Excise Notice to grant pre-release of bulk and other special cargoes, provided the conditions specified are met.