By Gboyega Oni
Owners of private bonded terminals, under the aegis of Association of Bonded Terminal Owners of Nigeria, have called on the federal government to utilise them as holding bays for exports and empty containers to save their business from total collapse and relive them of heavy bank loans on their necks.
The bonded terminals said the present capacity of their terminals, which can accommodate over 120,000 containers, is a blessing to the nation’s maritime industry and an indication of their support to the Nigerian Ports Authority towards the development and growth of the industry.
The Executive Secretary of the association, Mr. Haruna Omolajomo, made the call while speaking at a recent workshop on revival of bonded terminal operation.
He noted that their precarious state of operations started in 2006 during the port concession and was compounded by the concessionaires particularly APMT who reneged on the 30 percent cargo sharing agreement they both signed.
Omolajomo, who said over 400,000 TEUs were moved by bonded terminals prior to the concession, said if the concessionaires had kept faith with the 30 percent agreement, the bonded terminals would be busy and the multiplier effects would be enormous as many jobs already lost would be saved, new ones would be created and owners would defray their huge bank loan debts which were used to build the terminals, buy cargo handling equipment and provide accommodation and training for customs officers.
He said when ships were stemmed to them; all port access roads were free compared to what it is now. He maintained that they were ready to cooperate with necessary government agencies for the revival of their business.
According to him, ‘we can accommodate over 120,000 containers at ago. We are under-utilised and we owe salaries of over 12 months as no fewer than three of the bonded terminal owners have died. Presently, we are doing nothing. We can be utilised by the government as holding bays for exports and empty containers. If APMT can give us 30 percent of containers in their terminal, everybody will be busy and its multiplier effects will create employments and revenue for government.
‘We are ready to cooperate with the necessary government agencies to revive bonded terminal operations. We are not fighting concessionaires but they should let us be.’
Speaking further, Omolajomo said during the heyday of bonded terminal operations they adhered strictly to the rules of the game as they ensured that 48 hour cargo delivery was achieved, no increase in charges and generated a lot of money into the coffers of the government.
‘Since 2006, we have never increased charges but rather reduced our cost. We are ready and willing to reduce charges at anytime. We comply with the approved charges,’ said he.
Earlier in his speech as the chairman of the occasion, Dr. Emeka Enebeli, President of Ship Chandlers Association of Nigeria, said bonded terminals did not deserve the present situation they are because they paid a lot of money to get licensed and invested huge amount of money into the business.
He advised government to set up a technical committee to look into the problem of bonded terminals so as to save their operation and boost the economy.
In his welcome address, Mr. Ambrose Obioma Okehi, Publisher/Editor in Chief of Emperor Newspaper, said the motive behind the talk shop was to highlight the important role bonded terminals had played in the development of the nation’s maritime industry and proffer solutions to their ailment – lack of cargo.
He advised government to as a matter of urgency to designate them as holding bays for exports and empty cargo to relieve port access roads traffic gridlock.
Talking on the role of media in salvaging the ailing bonded terminals, Mr. Raymond Ugochukwu noted that media should play its role of watchdog and expose problems confronting the industry not only bonded terminals. He called on owners of bonded terminals and other maritime stakeholders to freely provide information for the press.
The workshop was organised by Emperor Newspaper.