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About 70 per cent containers shipped into Nigeria not seaworthy’

  • Stakeholders lament lack of regulation on container shipment

About 70 per cent of containers used for shipment into Nigeria are not seaworthy and out of use, The Guardian has learnt.

The Guardian also learnt that there is a lack of standard regulation on container types shipped into the country, which poses danger to fragile and sensitive goods, especially food and drugs.

During a visit to the Tin Can port last week, it was discovered that some of the containers were 12 years out of use, according to port users.

Shipping containers are big metal cans designed to keep cargo dry, secure and safe for transit while having the capacity to be transferred easily from boat to train to the truck as necessary. They are built and regulated by a set of international standards, which determine the sizes, and tolerances level, and therefore how seaworthy they are. This also ensures that containers from one factory will work fine alongside those built in an entirely different factory.

A marking process is used to indicate that a container has been checked and is seaworthy

Chairman, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), TinCan Chapter, Nwosu Godfrey, said over 60 per cent of outdated containers are being used for shipment of vehicles into Nigeria because there is no proper monitoring.

He said most Nigerian shippers and owners of goods are unaware that they are being short-changed by freight forwarders in those countries where the shipments are coming from.

He said the outdated containers are cheaper to rent than new ones, which is why freight forwarders use them for shipment.

“Over 60 per cent of containers used for shipment into Nigeria have expired. Each container has a stainless-steel plate that carries the identity of the container, the manufacturer, the components and whatever is used to build that container, which is clearly stipulated there. There is also this secure QR code that most times comes on that plate. Once you scan that code the details of the container would appear.

“However, most times, owners of vehicles don’t have final access to evaluate or know the kind of boxes being used for the shipment of their vehicles. You don’t ship goods in our neighbouring countries with expired boxes,” he said.

Godfrey said the wooden floor of expired containers poses danger on fragile or sensitive goods, such as chemicals, health products and hospital equipment, which end up being contaminated.

“Things like pharmaceuticals, you don’t just ship with any containers, the standard required type of box must be used to ship. In other countries, like Cotonou for instance, you hardly see shipment with expired containers,” he stressed.

Managing Director, Onas 100 Resources Nigeria Limited, Onome Monije, said shipping companies bring in about 70 per cent of containers that are out of use into Nigeria.

She said the rusted part in the container corrodes the body of vehicles when in contact.

“It is at the point of examination or taking the container out of the port that we notice that the containers are out of use. We cannot do anything because the goods are already in the container. We don’t have the power to watch over containers coming into Nigeria,” she said.

Onome said when they write to the shipping companies to complain over the kind of containers that were used to ship their goods, the companies delay in replying, while demurrage accrue.

She, however, charged the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to monitor the shipping lines and check the containers being brought into the country.

President, Shippers Association of Lagos (SAL) Jonathan Nicol, said a shipment of goods in outdated and expired container boxes into Nigeria is a violation of international conventions on the usage of container boxes.

“Expired boxes are barred from entering the country of importation. This is one of the reasons we believe that Nigeria is being used as a dumping ground. It is unfortunate that Nigerian importers pay levies on empty containers to the shipping lines, who in most cases lease the boxes.

“In fact, empty container cartels are established in Nigeria to rip off shippers. Most African countries have empty containers laws strictly enforced. Containers over five years are not allowed in some African nations. Why can’t we do the same?” he stressed.

He said shippers have been calling for the re-enactment of Import Adjustment Policies, which will checkmate violations of economic policies in Nigeria.

General Secretary, Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Haruna Omolajomo, said expired and out of use container boxes are being shipped into Nigeria by selfish and unscrupulous shippers or importers that seek to make a maximum profit at the expense of innocent Nigerians.

He alleged that some officials of government agencies aid these importers and shippers because of the monetary gain, without minding the effect of expired containers on goods.

Also, the stakeholders lamented the situation of container stacking on land, which they said is against international best practices.

They said the stacking of old, expired and outdated containers put people’s lives at risk, especially port users.

Omolajomo said the stacking of containers by international standards ought to be three stacks high in double lanes or layers for loaded containers, while the empties can be stacked five high.

He said where this is not maintained, the containers are said to be block stacked, which he said is wrong and unprofessional.

Godfrey also bemoaned the stacking of 11 containers high on land, which he said is against international best practices and not done anywhere in the world, including the neighbouring countries.

Godfrey blamed government agencies for the lack of proper regulations and inability to carry out their functions and operations.

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