Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has said importers prefer taking their cargoes directly from the ports than sending them to bonded terminals as they add to the costs of importation.

STOAN said the added cost of transportation from the port to the off-dock facilities and the cost of handling the cargoes at such facilities are inevitably borne by importers.

The Spokesman, STOAN, Dr. Bolaji Akinola, said operations of most Lagos-based bonded terminals are no longer relevant or sustainable, as the off-dock terminals have not upped their games nor invested in modern container handling facilities and processes.

He said the circumstances that gave rise to bonded terminals no longer exist, as port terminal operators have reduced the waiting time for container ships, hence, no need to send boxes to facilities outside the ports

“Some off-dock facilities stand the chance of receiving containers from the main port only if the main port facilities are filled up and lack space. But that has not happened for some years,” he said.

The STOAN spokesman noted that although the bonded terminals were set up to take pressure off the main ports and reduce congestion caused by the inefficiency of the Nigerian Ports Authority in cargo handling operation, with cargo and Customs related activities shifted from the main ports to the off-dock facilities, their operations were abused.

Akinola said serving Customs officers used their privileged positions to secure licenses using some clearing agents as fronts, while the facilities became enclaves of corruption.

“There was no standard for licensing them, neither were standards set for their operation. It was free for all at the time. Containers that were supposedly under Customs escort grew wings while transiting from the main port to the bonded terminal. Government lost huge revenue as Customs officers colluded with agents to perpetrate all manner of fraud.

“However, the story took a different turn in April 2006 as reputable terminal operators emerged to oversee cargo handling operations at our ports,” he explained.

The STOAN spokesman advised that since the bonded terminals were licensed by Customs, they should explore the possibility of discussing with Customs to serve as a government warehouse for overtime and abandoned cargoes or discuss with the NPA to serve as truck parks.