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Clearing agents turn Okada riders as cargo shipping to Nigeria plunge by 19%

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The loss of jobs and frustrating influence of the current economic recession are taking tolls in every sector and mainly the maritime industry.

Investigations by our correspondents at the two key seaports in Lagos, Apapa and Tincan have revealed that clearing activities have ebbed to its all time low in 10 years as the usual beehives of activities where clearing agents crowd the corridors of Customs offices have dropped drastically.

One of the agents who pleaded anonymity told Business Hilights that “The problem even started earlier than the declaration of recession by the Finance Minister”.

“Our loss of jobs started with the delisting of 41 items into the import prohibition list earlier in the year by the apex government through the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

Continuing, he said “Today the combined impacts of the import prohibition list and recession plus the forex challenge have made to understand that it will take time for normalcy in terms cargo throughput and clearing business at ports to return, hence many of our members are now ‘Okada riders within and around Apapa and Tincan”.

Statistics gathered from the NPA weekend showed that the flow of cargoes into the country recorded sharp drop in container traffic in the third quarter 2016.

Aside NPA data, Drewry, a maritime research, consulting and financial advisor, in its latest report said that container shipping dropped severely as Asia to Nigeria and other West African container traffic fell by 19 per cent during the period.

This is coming as shipping companies are on the verge of reviewing their balance sheets, with indications that vessel operating costs would rise from 2016 to 2017, with repairs, maintenance and spares recording the most significant increase.

In the Drewry report, it noted that the container flows into the region are reflecting the fact that economic slowdown is hitting the largest economies the hardest.

“After nine months of 2016, southbound shipments from Asia to West Africa were down by 11 per cent. Traditionally one of the strongest periods of the year, the third quarter saw volumes slide by 19 per cent year-on-year, the worst decline on records dating back to 2012 and the seventh consecutive quarter with a negative comparison,” it stated.

“The end-year 2016 deficit will almost certainly beat the 10 per cent drop in annual volumes experienced last year,” the shipping consultancy said, adding that the average monthly Asia to West Africa volume over the past 12 months up to September 2016 fell to 101,700 TEU, 11.6 per cent down on the same month last year.

“The speed of the decline is accelerating and indicates a trade decrease of around 12-14 per cent come end-December,” it stated.

Shipping consultant Moore Stephens, in a separate report said vessel operating costs are expected to rise by 1.9 per cent in 2016, and by 2.5 per cent in 2017, while the cost of repairs and maintenance is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent in 2016 and by 1.9 per cent in 2017.


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