Government exempts 49 items from new cargo policy

Apapa Ports

The Federal Government has announced the exemption of about 49 items from its controversial cargo palletisation policy.

But stakeholders in the maritime industry insist the directive should be halted, calling instead for importers and shipping firms to decide when pallet packaging is needed.

The Federal Ministry of Finance, in a circular signed by its Director Home Finance, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola, said the list is “subject to regular update by the ministry, as may be dictated by government based on prevailing realities.”

The document, made available to stakeholders at a meeting organised by Ships & Ports Communication in Lagos yesterday, warned that defaulting importers would be liable to a fine of 25 per cent of Freight on Board (FoB) value (naira equivalent) of the unpalletised goods. “The amount shall be paid into the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”

Palletisation is a method of storing and transporting goods stacked on a pallet and shipped as a unit load. It permits standardised ways of handling loads with equipment like forklift trucks.

Some of the exempted goods include metalised paper, white line chip boards, reel of boards, flat sheets in rolls, flat aluminum sheets in rolls, motor vehicles, mobile firefighting equipment, earth moving tyres, consignment with space to enable in-container examination, consignment/products packed in studded crates and jumbo paper/tissue reels.

The stakeholders argued that the policy would spell more harm than benefit to the country.

Chairman, Ships & Ports Communication, Bolaji Akinola, said: “We have had several failed policies in this country and industry operators are saying we don’t want such retrogressive policies again. Palletisation should be allowed to happen between the shippers and importers.”

He noted: “The policy would put Port Quarantine as a lead agency against the Nigerian Customs Service. It would increase the cost of doing business at the ports and affect Nigeria’s rating on Ease of Doing Business. It would further drive cargo diversion to neighbouring countries and aid corruption.”

Rather than carry on with the policy, the stakeholders urged the government to fix scanners, repair port access roads and limit physical examination of cargo.

Managing Director of CMA CGM DELMAS Nigeria Limited, Todd Rives, warned that the policy could result in a loss of over $60 million yearly, stressing that it must be properly thought out.

President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Olayiwola Shittu, described the policy as misplaced priority. “It will be difficult for shippers because we are an import dependent nation.

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