The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has accused shipping lines of aiding importation of arms into the country.
Its Comptroller General, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), who accused the liners at stakeholders meeting in Lagos, explained that one of the biggest problems the country was currently facing is illegal importation of arms.
He called on stakeholders to join hands in identifying loopholes necessitating the proliferation of arms into the Nigerian shores.
Ali noted that between January and October, 2017, Customs intercepted 2,671 pump rifle action.
The comptroller general noted that importers knew the original contents were prohibited in Nigeria, leading to the diversion of the cargo to Morocco and canceled the manifest to read sanitary wares.
He wondered why shipping lines would change manifest midway in the course of transportation.
Ali stressed that NCS would henceforth subject cargoes in containers to be palletised.
He said: “The law is very clear. If a shipping line brings in goods that are contrary to what is disclosed, the law gives us power to delay and if possible seize any cargo.
“Any ship that carries cargo other than what is declared, the law empowers us to seize or detain. If we get any infraction we would apply the law to the fullest.”
French carrier to manage 2.5m TEU Lekki Port
French container carrier, CMA CGM is to handle the proposed 2.5 million Twenty Equivalent Unit (TEU) and 10,000 TEU container ships at Lekki port.
Already, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise has signed a memorandum of understanding with the shipping company.
This is coming barely a year after the Philippine port developer, International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), the first investor at the container terminal, halted an agreement to develop and operate the container terminal in May 2017
ICTSI backed out of its N85.5 billion ($225 million) investments from the $1.5 billion public private partnership (PPP) between the Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagos State Government and Tolaram Group.
However, under the new agreement, the French carrier’s subsidiary, CMA Terminals, would be responsible for marketing, operations and maintenance of the container terminal at the seaport.
It was learnt that the terminal would have two container berths once completed in 2020.
According to the Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, Farid T. Salem, larger container ships from Europe and Asia would berth at the port to better serve customers in the entire region.
With its 16-metre depth, it will allow the group deploy ships with a capacity of up to 14,000 TEUs.
The company said that the latest move was fully in line with CMA CGM Group’s development in the region.
The container terminal will allow the group to develop its presence into West Africa’s first consumer market and will serve as a transshipment hub, especially to neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin.
It was learnt that the container terminal would be equipped with a 1,200-meter-long quay as well as 13 quay cranes upon completion and would also have a capacity of 2.5 million TEUs.
When operational, the port is expected to contribute more than $500 billion to government’s treasury, while also creating close to 163,000 new jobs in the economy.
Already, Lekki Port has secured an approval of N57 billion ($150 million) funding from the Board of African Development Bank (ADfB) for its deep seaport project.
Smuggling: Niger as transit route for Nigeria
With the ban on importation of vehicles through land borders by the Federal Government taking a toll on smugglers, Republic of Niger has become a new route for the illegal business, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports.
The ban on importation of vehicles through land border and Federal Government’s automotive policy, which attracts 70 per cent duties, have fueled the number of smuggled vehicles through porous routes in the northern part of the country.
Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that smugglers are routing vehicles imported from Cotonou Port in Republic of Benin into Nigeria through Republic of Niger daily.
It was revealed that car dealers were using the illegal routes after paying all legal dues in Cotonou Port before driving to Niger Republic to settle that country’s taxes and levies then move them to Nigeria.
Also, it was gathered that the dealers move their vehicles in convoy, tactically through Maradi and Maimujiya towns in Niger Republic to Nigeria before routing them to their final destinations.
It would be recalled that in November 2017, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Sokoto Command, comprising Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states, seized 39 vehicles illegally routed through the two neighbouring countries.
Just two weeks ago, NCS operatives impounded no fewer than 150 Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) hidden in a premises in Sokoto State.
Also, the service raided a warehouse in Sokoto and impounded 48 vehicles last week.
The vehicles were unlawfully imported into the country through Niger Republic from Cotonou Port.
The vehicles, made up of old model Lexus (2007 model) and Toyota Avensis (2005 model), were seized from a member of Sokoto branch of Car Dealers Association of Nigeria (CDAN), Mukhtar Muhammed, a.k.a Mafia.
According to Customs’ records in Sokoto and Abuja, the vehicles were imported into the country in batches between December 2017 and March 2018, without paying the necessary charges to Customs.
Area Comptroller of Sokoto Command, Alhaji Nasir Ahmed, said that the service was calculating the duties the smuggler would pay to government with necessary penalties.
Already, the leadership of the car dealers association has been making frantic efforts to raise the fines.
A vehicle dealer, who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity at Idiroko border, said that the trade was no longer lucrative at all the border communities from Ogun to Kwara states because of the obstacles put in place by the NCS to frustrate them.
He noted that vehicle importation from Cotonou Port through Idiroko and other approved routes has reduced when compared to the past.
The dealer noted: “When you bring your vehicles to the country in the night, you just discover that Customs officials enter your premises and tow the vehicle away. Informants are everywhere and you can’t know them. This is the only trade we know how to do here and this is why some people have decided to route all their imports through Niger before coming to Nigeria.
“It is now difficult to register any vehicle imported through the land border in Ogun and Lagos states licensing offices. You can’t even pay duty on any car brought through the border. Customs has dropped two or three lines in some licensing offices where they will confirm whether the vehicle passed through the port or border. Once it is not from the port, they will go after you and impound it.”
The dealer also confirmed that people smuggle vehicles into the country daily through Niger Republic to bring vehicles to the country.
According to him, “once your vehicles arrive, you register them in one of the northern states before moving it down. This is the only option some people are exploiting and in some cases some of the vehicles have been intercepted because of poor documentation.”
Also, a clearing agent, identified simply as Evangelist, explained that vehicle importers had been facing had times in Ogun State borders since commencement of the ban in 2017.
This is the reason people prefer to use the northern part of the country as alternative route for smuggling.
He noted that the only moving trade they are identified with is vehicle importation, adding that it would be difficult to leave the business.
Evangelist confirmed that Customs had blocked all the avenues they were using in the past to perfect their imports.
Because of the challenges, he explained that some vehicle importers and clearing agents had started relocating from the Ogun border communities to other states.
The customs agent stressed that N1,000 now being exchanges for 617 Cfa (Communaute Financere Africaine), thereby making business difficult at the border.
“Presently, Benin businessmen and their government are feeling the pain too,” he said.
According to him, the Federal Road Safety Corps lackes the capacity to identify whether a car was shipped through the seaport or land borders.
He added: “The rate of trans-border crime around the communities is on the increase because people are no longer doing anything. The only trade we know is car dealing business and the business is not there again. Some of my colleagues cannot cope with clearing jobs at the seaport because they have not been doing it. This is the major problem.”
Reacting, spokesman of Customs’ anti- smuggling unit, Mr. Jerry Attah, explained that Customs no longer collecting duties on vehicle imported from land border.
He noted that any vehicle imported through the land border would be seized by the service.
Government should review the auto policy, which is currently creating jobs and revenue for other countries
Tough times ahead for local shipping lines
Unless the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) uses its discretionary power to intervene, indigenous shipping sector may collapse soon as over 80 per cent of their single hall vessels may be debarred from Nigerian waters by 2020, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Indigenous ship owners may face another hurdle in the next two years on Nigerian waters as the five years grace given for them to shift from single-hull ships to double hull expire.
Also, they would not be permitted to engage in international trade from January 2021 as their certificate extension only covers trade within Nigerian waters till December 31, 2020. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had set 2015 as the initial deadline but it was extended in Nigeria.
Already, all foreign registered single hull tankers have been banned from trading on Nigerian waters as mandated by IMO regulations.
Reasons for ban
The international apex maritime organisation, IMO, had earlier said that tanker ships with single hull often faced problems of leakage of ballast water into cargo because of its design.
It noted that single hall vessels had increased the risks of pollution during ballasting and de-ballasting as leaking pipes passing through cargo tanks often contaminate the clean ballast water.
Therefore, the maritime organisation explained that double hull would remove this problem with different piping systems. It noted that double hull ships were more susceptible to minor structural failures as compared to the single hull tankers.
According the organisation, all single-hull tankers, including the smallest ones which were initially not covered by the scheme, would be subject to the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) from the age of 15 years.
The CAS is an enhanced additional inspection scheme specially developed to detect structural weaknesses in single hull tankers.
It would be recalled that in April 2001, IMO adopted regulations under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), requiring new tankers of 5,000 dead weight(dwt) and above, to have double hull, mid-deck or equivalent design.
It further said that port states were permitted to deny entry to their ports and offshore terminals to single hull tankers operating under such life extensions after 2010, and to double sided or double bottomed tankers after 2015.
Based on this position, amendments to the MARPOL regulations accelerated the phasing out of single hull tankers to 2005 for Category I vessels and 2010 for Category II vessels. Category I vessels include crude oil tankers of 20,000 deadweight (dwt) and above and product carriers of 30,000 dwt and above that are pre-MARPOL Segregated Ballast Tanks (SBT) carriers. Category II vessels include crude oil vessels of 20,000 dwt and above and product carriers of 30,000 dwt and above that are post-MARPOL SBT vessels.
In addition, a Condition Assessment Scheme (“CAS”) will apply to all single hull tankers 15 years or older.
However, IMO noted that Flag States may permit the continued operation of Category II tankers beyond 2010, subject to satisfactory CAS results, but only to 2015 or 25 years of age, whichever comes earlier. Category II tankers fitted with double bottoms or double sides not used for the carriage of oil will be permitted to trade beyond 2010 to 25 years of age, subject to the approval of the flag state.
However, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) extended the deadline to December, 31, 2020.
The agency extended the deadline to sustain the development of the Nigerian maritime industry and enhance the gains of the Cabotage laws and Local Content Act.
Already, NIMASA, acting in compliance with the IMO regulation, has stopped registration of single hall vessels and affirmed that no single hall vessel would be permitted to sail on Nigeria waters.
It explained that the decision to extend the deadline was taken in line with the provisions of IMO, which allows member states who do not have the capacity to replace their existing single hull tanker fleet to extend the phase-out date of certain categories of tankers in their countries, provided the vessels do not engage in international trade.
According the Head of NIMASA Public Relations, Isichei Osamgbi, “our decision to extend the final phase-out date for all single hull tankers registered under the Nigerian flag administration to December 31, 2020 was to give more time for fleet replacement by Nigerian ship owners and also develop greater capacity to handle scrapping of vessels in the country.”
He explained that all tankers that would benefit from the extension must possess valid classification and statutory certificates, including a valid Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) certificate issued by NIMASA.
Despite these, it was learnt that to convert a single hall ship to a double hall would attract high cost among other challenges as the ban has led to increased demand for new ships and made ship values to attract higher rates. Presently, more than 80 per cent of ship owners in the country have gone out business because of lack of jobs and debts. In addition, it was revealed that while some of them could no longer pay wages of their crew, other have auctioned their vessels to pay bank’s debts.
According to NIMASA, more than 80 per cent of all Nigerian tankers are currently single hull.
Besides, some of the vessels were above 35 years old.
Already, NIMASA had stopped renewal certificates since 2015 for vessels that are more than 35 years.
Also, contrary to the existing five-year tenure for renewal of certificates, registration of new single hull tankers had ceased since 2017.
President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, expressed displeasure over the challenges facing indigenous ship owners and the turn of event in the industry in the last two years. He noted that indigenous tonnage had gone down, while seafarers were going out of job
According to him, most ship owners were unable to meet their obligations to the financing banks, leading to loss of jobs and failed businesses.
The president said that what was needed to grow the Nigerian shipping industry and the economy was government support on Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), which would enable them to lift Nigeria crude and ultimately boost indigenous capacity.
Ogbeifun noted that foreign vessels banned in Europe, which are not supposed to operate on the nation’s waters, were in fact leading and dictating in the distribution of imported petroleum products in the country’s waters.
Despite the challenges, there is need by the government and ship owners to comply with the international shipping standard.
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