By Peace Obi 

As part of the efforts geared toward actualizing the executive order on 24hour port operations, the Nigeria Customs Service has directed that an advanced notice (advanced cargo manifest) of all vessels coming into the nation’s seaport be made available to the Service as well as the Nigerian Ports Authority.

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) made this known during a one-day town hall meeting organised by the Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) on 24hr port operations in Lagos recently. According to the Customs boss, shipping lines are to send the advanced cargo manifest electronically as soon as the vessels departs its last port of call. This he said would promote risk management, profiling and cargo placement for examination.

Announcing other measures adopted by the the Service to include the reduction of import documents from 14 to 8 and export documents from 10 to 7, the Customs boss who was represented by the Customs Area Comptroller, Ports and Terminal Multi-Services Limited (PTML) Command, Comptroller Aremu Morenike explained that the new guidelines are geared towards achieving greater service delivery at the ports.

“In order to achieve greater service delivery at our ports the Department of Home Finance of the Federal Ministry of Finance revised Nigeria’s import and export guidelines streamlining the current procedures.  Some of the new guidelines impact directly on the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service at the ports. And  in the same vein, more responsibilities have been imposed on other stakeholders.

“In line with World Bank recommendation, the FMF has directed that import document be reduced from 14 to 8 and that of export from 10 to 7. Under the new guideline, the cargo placement notice time for examination required by Terminal Operatators have been reduced from 24hours to a maximum of 12hours.

“The revised guideline requires the shipping lines to electrocnically transmit advanced manifest of their cargoes to the NCS and Nigeria Ports Authority as soon as the vessel department its last port of call; such practice would promote risk management, profiling and cargo placement for examination, Ali said.

Reiterating the NCS readiness to attain the 24hour port operations mandate, Ali disclosed that the Service had moved from manual long room procedure to automated ASYCUD++ platform. A step he he said has contributed immensely to Customs facilitation of trade, compliance and competitiveness. The Customs boss however said that the barrier the Service envisaged is on the integrity and compliance  of the trading public to the new guidelines. “Evidently, the NCS is positioned to implement a 24hour port operations. The impediment to the attainment of this remains the integrity and compliance of the trading public in ensuring proper documentation, honest declarations, prompt payment of duty and other taxes as required by law.  Other challenges envisage in the ports include security as touts poses serious security challenges as against IPSCode (International Ports and Security Code).

Speaking also, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barrister Hassan Bello said that the 24hr port operations is realizable if different government agencies can work as a team. Adding that government should launch a common portal for its agencies and that the Standard Operating Procedures launched by the NSC should serve as a guide in that regard.

Represented by Mrs. Juliana Saka from the Compliance and Monitoring Department of the Council, Bello said, “All stakeholders need to compliment each other in rendering services to the port users, especially the NCS, shipping lines and NPA.”

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) saw the Executive Order as a corrective measure to the bureaucratic bottlenecks at the nation’s sea port. The association which was represented by its National Deputy President, Rev. Emmanuel Agubanze said that the 2hr port operations would remain elusive if government fails coordinate its agencies at the port, streamlines its procedures, tackle corruption, double taxation, among others.

Earlier in his remarks, the President AMJON, Ismail Aniemu said that the town hall meeting was designed to bring stakeholders in a roundtable for exchange of ideas on realising the executive order on 24hr portion port operations.

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