Maritime experts reveal that 90 per cent of containers brought into Nigeria are not efficiently utilised.

Speaking with the PUNCH in Lagos recently, the experts linked the hike in freight rates for cargoes destined for Nigeria to the underutilisation of those containers in the country.

The Customs Area Controller in charge of Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, Timi Bomordi, said in a chat with journalists in Apapa, Lagos recently that Nigerian importers pay for the two legs of shipping.

“In Nigeria, the cost of shipping is always higher than in Europe, Asia, and America. It is usually so because Nigerian importers pay for the two legs of the shipping. If a container leaving Asia for Europe costs $1,000, the container knows that it is not going to come back empty. If they spent $1,000 going there, they will also get the money back coming because it will be laden. It won’t be empty. “So, the utility value of the container is in two ways. But in Nigeria, 90 per cent of the time, it is not. The utility value of the box is one way because we are a net importing country. We import much more than we export,” he explained.

According to Bomordi, the chance of containers bringing in goods to Nigeria going back with goods is low.

“So, what is the probability that a box that comes in with goods from Europe, Asia, or America will go back with something? The probability is next to nothing. It is negative. So, the shipping companies are wise. They know that it cost them the same amount to fuel their vessels and bring these boxes here. So, who is going to pay for that? Who will pay for the empty boxes? So, they will tell the importers that they have to pay for the return. So, they charge the importers for two ways,” he further stated.

Meanwhile, a licensed Customs agent, Mr Festus Ukwu, called on the government to encourage exporters in the country.

“We do not have much to export. So, the volume of importation is far higher than the volume of exportation. If you look around, you will find out that many goods are under prohibition, which limits export. The government just currently lifted the ban on the export of wood, which will escalate export.

“The number of containers that come in is more than the ones that go out. We don’t have much to export that is the reason. It is the fault of the National Export Promotion Council because there is no incentive for exporters. There is no attraction for export. Exporters need to be encouraged. Most of the goods they export in Nigeria are unfinished goods,” Ukwu enunciated.

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