SHIPPING companies have been accused of using Nigeria as a dumping ground for outdated containers unloading expired boxes that have gone past their 20-year expiry date at the Apapa port in Lagos.
Internationally, shipping containers have a maximum lifespan of 20 years, after which they are expected to be recycled. However, according to the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, importers, clearing agents, freight forwarders and logistics providers have turned the country into a dumping ground for expired containers.
Operators including Maerskline, China Shipping, Cosco, Nedlloyd, CMA CMG and others, have been accused of not only using Nigeria as a dumping ground but equally making brisk business out of it. Apparently, they demand payments of container deposits on every container they import into Nigeria.
Foreign shipping lines have found it convenient to dump the expired containers in Nigeria since they are not allowed to take them to their home countries as governments there have efficient control systems against unacceptable standards. Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the chief executive officer of Skellas Nigeria Limited and immediate past national president of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, said the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has the responsibility for standard container oversight and should do something about it.
Prince Shittu added: “The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has the responsibility of monitoring and ensuring that only acceptable standard containers are used in bringing goods to our ports. Even Nigerian highways are littered with so much abandoned containers and the shipping companies compensate themselves with container deposits when the value of some of those containers is not even up to the sum of the deposit.
“I won’t be surprised that Nigeria has become a dumping ground for expired containers as they are valuable for cargo distribution and the routine is to use them around the world for 20 years in most cases and be disposed of properly. Surprisingly you can apply to the container agent that you want to buy a container and they give you invoice, so it’s the media that should investigate and let Nigerians know what is happening because the local agent selling is the representative of the liners.
Customs agent and business tycoon, Chief Ernest Elochukwu said the issue is hydra-headed and blamed the Nigerian authorities for exhibiting relatively little control measures. He added that the absence of any form of regulatory controls is what has led to the present fears and allegations.
Chief Elochukwu said: “I cannot confirm off-hand the veracity of that information but then, judging from what has been going on for a long time now, it is possible that because of the problems of returning the empties that there might have been some kind of compromise on the quality of containers they use in bringing goods here. The empties are supposed to be returned to ports of shipment, so when the empties are not promptly returned there is bound to be a breach in the system and could result in the situation we are said to be in right now.
Shipping agent and importer Chief James Idornigie said there is no need for worry if the containers can deliver goods safely and without question of quality crisis. He added: “It is still a rumour, nothing official has been said about it.”