Nigeria stands to lose volumes in maritime-related business and the revenues and jobs that come with it as activity is shifting from the country’s seaports to those of neighbouring Ghana, Togo, Benin and Cameroon on account of long delays in cargo clearance.

Average clearing time for containerised cargo in Nigeria is between 14 and 21 days (two to three weeks), while in Ghana, importers spend two days for the same purpose. Similarly, in Cotonou (Benin) and Togo, importers spend an average of seven days to take delivery of their goods.

Analysts say that slow cargo clearing processes, which result in high demurrage and storage charges, also lead to loss of business to nearby ports where the processes are faster and therefore more cost-effective.

Tony Anakebe, a maritime analyst, says Nigeria needs to address all clearing bottlenecks, such as long documentation and manual procedures, attributing the massive diversion of cargo from the country’s ports to other ports to long clearing days.

“Importers prefer to import through the ports that are user-friendly. And this also results to loss of business for investors in the port industry as well as loss of revenue on the part government,” he adds.

Clement Godonou, general manager, RORO Terminal, Benin, who spoke to BusinessDay, confirms that it takes an average of seven days to clear a container and one day (24 hours) to clear a vehicle from the Cotonou port, adding that they target to reduce cargo dwell time to one day so as to enable importers to take delivery of their containers as soon as the ships berth.

“Cargo clearance in Cotonou port has become faster due to the port reform embarked on by the government of the Republic of Benin in 2011, which introduced an online single window clearing platform, known as SEGUB. Now, consignees do not need to go round to different operators to obtain clearance. Rather, the importer is expected to submit the bill of lading to one central point, SEGUB, where it is processed without delay,” he explains.

Kouferidji Ramanou, president, NEPAD Business Group, Republic of Benin, says Cotonou port now has less vessel waiting time and free flow of traffic in the port access roads, which have resulted to increased volume of cargo in the port than before.

“This is the principal benefit of the port reform and that is why cargo clearance has become faster in Cotonou port. Also, the port access roads are more organised now because a lot of other businesses that were formerly situated around the port areas were relocated from the port to other areas. This has created more space that was dedicated to building of terminal infrastructure, and this also introduced efficient service delivery,” he says.

Kofi Mbiah, chief executive officer, Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), revealed during his recent visit to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos that Ghanaian ports have attained 48-hour cargo clearance.

According to him, it takes between one and two days to clear consignments from any seaport in Ghana due to the successful implementation of electronic cargo clearance platform in Ghanaian ports. This has accelerated cargo clearance processes, such that cargo dwell time that was an average of 12 to 14 days has dropped to two days.

Source: Businessday