Saturday, March 3, 2012

Nigerian Ports See Freight Container Delays, Piracy and Murder

Lately the Shipping Industry Reads Like a Catalogue of Disaster
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – The neighbouring ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island and the more south easterly Port Harcourt have not been happy places of late what with pressure from pirate groups and a continuation of bottle necks for freight containers causing a war of words between forwarders and the Government and this week the killing of two clearing agents highlights the tensions which exist across the city of Lagos.

Yesterday two customs clearance agents clashed in a classic case of road rage resulting in one being stabbed to death and the killer then being despatched in turn by an angry mob of clearing agency staff who then set the killers car on fire before ‘going on a rampage’ according to local press reports.

The ports have been facing mounting pressure with the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) describing traffic through them as ‘gridlock’ saying that the situation has not improved in years despite Government promises. In 2004 the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) employed a consultant to advise on the privatisation of the nation’s ports resulting in a report which, when acted upon, produced much improved throughput according to the Government.

Now however a Presidential Task Force on Ports has been criticised by NAGAFF for allowing a build up of trucks around the ports to slow the throughput of cargo and containers to a crawl. Despite some success in diverting cargo elsewhere the agents say this is not a long term solution and more needs to be done to regularise the situation.

Meanwhile further down the coast pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea continue to be as outrageous as ever with an armed gang of eight pirates boarding the anchored Breiz Klipper off Port Harcourt on Friday and kidnapping three crew including the captain and chief engineer after stealing money and possessions. Once again there are indications that the raiders were affiliated to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who wage a guerrilla war against energy interests which they claim are engaged in legalised robbery having bribed the Government to sell them oil and gas assets cheaply.

A MEND spokesman said the three abducted men two Russians and a Filipino, were unharmed and would soon be handed over as they had no link to the oil industry. Local reports say that recent MEND statements have emanated from Ireland and it was from there that the Breiz Klipper had sailed with her cargo of reefer boxes containing frozen fish. The attack was the latest in a long history of such incidents, just last month two ships officers died after their vessel was fired on with automatic weapons.