Shipping Lines Clearance Jobs in Nigerian Ports

Steps taken by multinational shipping companies to gradually dislodge Nigerian freight forwarders from clearing cargo at the country’s seaports are raising fears among stakeholders. Already, it is estimated that as many as 1,000 local businesses are at risk of closure in Kenya following the subtle incursion of multinational shipping companies. According to the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA), the closure of 1,000 local businesses means more than 10,000 jobs at stake.

A freight forwarder and former president of the National Association of Government Licensed Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke, revealed to our correspondent that over the past year, most multinational shipping companies operating in Nigeria have incorporated local import clearance offices to manage their cargo and logistics activities at the ports. The idea, according to Nweke, was to ensure that they handle most of the customs clearance work involving consignments brought into Nigeria. To ensure they succeed, the former NAGAFF boss said Nigerian importers are currently being pressured to sign end-to-end logistics services with them. With this arrangement, Nweke pointed out that the importers would simply grant the right of clearance to the shipping companies as soon as the goods arrive on Nigerian shores.

However, the implication of this decision, he said, was that Nigerian freight forwarders might have no or limited jobs to deal with in relation to customs clearance services. He further disclosed that some of the shipping lines even threaten importers to sign up for end-to-end logistics services for obvious reasons. With this, the freight forwarder explained that the worst business practice seems to be evolving in the country’s port industry, causing multinational shipping companies to sideline and dislodge Nigerian freight forwarders from their business practice of clearing cargo. Nweke noted that this has happened in Kenya where shipping companies were currently involved in clearing goods for the owners of the cargoes they brought into that country.

He said: “It has become standard practice in our customs clearance and logistics area for shipping companies to appoint a local import clearance team (office/unit) sending emails or Whatsapp messages asking your customers to authorize them to clear customs and deliver the shipment to their warehouses. at the most reasonable cost and speed.

Initially, this was common practice with groupage imports, but has since migrated to full container (FCL) imports. “The Port’s scenario to date shows that out of 20 clearing companies, only five have jobs directly and sublet to five other agents, while the remaining 10 are unemployed.

They will always believe that jobs are scarce or that imports have declined. Unfortunately, they never take the time to ask themselves, if employment is really too low, how is it that customs revenues are exploding and that ships reach all bonded terminals, without recourse? “My worry is that sooner or later like it is happening in Kenya mergers and acquisitions will be a novel in our industry and by then the number of job losses would be unbelievable. In Kenya neither the economic regulator of the port, neither the Shippers Council nor consumer regulatory agencies have been able to halt development due to shipping lines’ interests in mergers and takeovers.” I believe there is no longer a question that between the practitioners and designated import clearance units that there is no form of level playing field, they benefit from immediate release of cargo from ports for further financial reconciliation and also benefit from a reasonable preference even among most Customs operational area commands due to their corporate status.

“However, the biggest concern is the participation and balance of freight forwarders in the ongoing AfCTA implementation regime, particularly in the face of a potential merger and acquisition.” Nweke said the biggest problem now was that freight forwarders were currently divided and therefore would be ill-equipped to combat this scenario. He fears that shipping companies will resort to sponsoring more and more crisis between customs associations to remain divided on common issues and therefore unable to come and fight them. He added: “The ugly situation being that freight forwarders’ associations are still divided along nomenclature while the oldest association, ANLCA, is still in a leadership crisis.” Nweke said the time has come for all freight forwarders to do everything to unite so that they can fight on a common course. “The need to hurry while the sun is shining cannot be overstated,” he said. In the case of Kenya, it was found that customs clearance companies are currently at risk of closure as shipping lines are now involved in customs clearance for importers in that country.


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