What is the importance of carrying goods with containers?
The importance of carrying goods with containers is to shield the goods from being damaged, especially from rainfall, and to be able to carry them in large quantity. And the only thing that can carry it is empty container, I think by that way, you are trying to take it to the large quantity and also protect it from the rain to avoid damage.
What kind of goods can you import with container?
You can import finished goods with container, like electrical, motor spare parts, medical instruments, and a lot of them. And also there is this one we call cooling container, it is made especially for frozen foods, such as fish, chicken, turkey etc. But the one I am talking of dry container, dry container is made for finished goods.
Is it all the goods that normally come in with containers?
It depends on the kind of goods, because you can’t bring in rod through container, it has its own cargo that brings it. As I said before that the only goods that can come through containers are only finished goods; or raw materials but product like rod cannot come through container, but rice can come through container, perishable goods also come through containers, like fish, tomatoes etc. Government have really given them attention, what I mean is that the Federal Government has given them the opportunity of going through the fast track. There is something we call fast track, they have agreed to put them in fast track lane so that the process of clearance will be fast, and cannot be delayed because of the nature of the goods. If you allow it stay longer in the port, it will get damaged and at such the importer is losing, he is losing his investment and profit, he does not make it, and that does not sound well for Nigeria, I mean to the economy of Nigeria. If I am the importer who imported such goods and there is no special arrangement made by the government, I will be discouraged by establishing my business here in Nigeria. What I will do, I will do what is called business survey in Africa and find out the country that gives more consent to all this kind of goods and I will now push my business over there. If it is Ghana, I will go there and start doing the business over there. There was a time the consent were not given by government, a lot of business man left Nigeria to other country like Cotonu.
How long can goods stay in container?
It can’t stay much, as long as you clear any consignment from the port and the goods are heading to the owner’s warehouse, it cannot take the owners one hour or two hours to empty the containers, because that is what they have been waiting for. Your duties as clearing agents are for you to clear goods and deliver it to the owner.
For you to call yourself a clearing agent, you must clear the consignment and deliver it to the owner’s warehouse, and that is when you will tell yourself, I have cleared these goods, this is a job well-done. So the owner will empty it immediately because delaying the goods in ware house, you are in essence delaying the deposit that you have made, either the importer made the deposit or the agents, so if you are delaying for not offloading those goods to your warehouse, you are in essence trying to accumulate all demurrages. You might deposit two hundred thousand naira per container, and it stays like one week, coming to the port again, it will also queue in the line for like two weeks for it to go inside the terminal. May be in the process, all the deposit you made has gone and how much will you make on a container that warrant you to lose that kind of money, except if there is any other thing in consignment that you have not declare, and during physical examination the customs couldn’t find it out, because you did not declared it on the clearing document, may be from there you can use it to make up all the money you have wasted, whether by commission or omission.
How can you handle containers to avoid damage to the goods inside them?
Over time, we have found out that terminal operators have joined hands with the truck owners to damage the goods in containers; is either it is the driver which it’s not his fault anyway, it is the fault of the government, government own a duty to the people, and one of the duties is to create enabling environment for every business to grow, for this business to grow you need to consider the development of your road infrastructure and otherwise, because when you have a good road network, what you are doing in essence is to help the business to grow, you are creating what I call enabling environment in that aspect for business to be established.
The issue of container coming on the way to the warehouse and falling down on the moving vehicle or on top of the cyclist or anybody, it will not get to his destination as planned. Now let me go to the side of terminal operators. Terminal operators what they do is they don’t use a good mechanism to check the weight of a consignment like we know that some consignment will be 22kg or 23, 24 or 40 tons as case may be, and when you have a good mechanism to check all these things you should be able to know the weight of the container one by 20 feet or one by 40 feet, when you know exactly the weight then you will use a crane that can match with that weight and lift it up, but what they do is they will use the lower KG, a lower crane to lift a higher container by doing so what they are trying to do in essence is to damage the goods inside, you are not trying to help the owner to sell the goods and come back again and use your terminal but when the good is delivered to the owners warehouse, he sells, the next thing is to go back to China or anywhere in the world, he comes back he uses your same terminal, he pays duty to the federal government, and still you didn’t give him proper treatment, what you are trying to do in essence is to discouraged him from not doing business again with you, he will now start importing through Cotonu.
So, I think that question should be directed to sea terminal operators, they are our problems and also the problem of the importers. Now shipping companies charge us on the damage of the ankle, the body or anywhere, they will think that the faults are from us. The fault is not from the importer, the fault is from these terminal operators. Every containers has its own weight and likewise the crane or plant has its own weight and you should put a mechanism in a place that will check that this is the weight for this consignment, then you will use exactly the folk lift or crane that is exactly the weight and lift up the container, because you find out that when they are trying to lift the container without the crane that is the size of the container, it will just fall and the shipping company will charge you for breaking containers. Freight forwarding as a business are not healthy, we suffered so many things, is just that we are trying to swallow so things. Is either you suffer in the hand of these terminal operators or from the shipping companies.
Again, damaging of goods will occur due to bad road, you and I apply this road every day, we have seen the way the government or Lagos state government are trying to patch it, but I have already said that road should be expanded, if government has failed to expand the road in such a manner that it should also contain other road users, and also make available road that container trailers will also ply. What we are trying to do in essence is that we are trying to shield the business in Lagos and also shield the economy of this country.
Do containers expire?
It doesn’t, the only time it has to expire is when it falls down and goes beyond repair, but they can still export it to the country where it came from, and they can still repair it back in such a way that it can be use again to import or export goods.
Why do agents use their money to clear goods for importer?
We are not finding it easy. As a beginner, I shouldn’t use my money to clear for an importer, but because of what was on ground before I became the agent, when you approach an importer, he will tell you if I must give you the bill of lading, then you must clear it with your money. And you find that most of us who are agent are obeying to that dictate; it is wrong one because it is not dictate of a profession is not ethical, for me to use my money without any mobilization fees from the owner.
In fact, most of the goods I cleared running into millions have not been paid, do you know that each time that I call the importers that I need my money, what they will tell me is that I should be patient that other ones are coming. Supposing I don’t have any other source of lively hood, what would have happened? How can an importer importing goods, pay all the freight from China to Nigeria, he pays everything and for him to now pay me my service charge he will now ask me to use my money. If there is anything that can be done to put hold on that like I said before I will be the first to give my support. A friend of mine has the bill running into 40-50 million Naira money outside, and they are still bringing their documents. And if you say that you will not clear the goods, they will give it to another person.