Era of Customs licensing freight forwarders archaic, old fashioned ― Bello

Immediate past Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, at the weekend urged the Federal Government to strengthen the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) to grant license of operations to freight forwarders, stating that the era where Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) grants licensing to freight forwarders is archaic and no longer tenable internationally.

Bello who was the guest speaker during the maiden graduation ceremony in Freight Forwarding And Supply Chain Management of the CRFFN held in Lagos, informed that licensing of Freight Forwarders by Customs is archaic and no longer fashionable, stating that the Freight Forwarders needs to take a place in the port business.

He added that the ports need to be efficient and digitalized, hence the need for training of Freight Forwarders who are major players in the industry.

The former NSC boss also lamented the long cargo clearance process at the ports, stating that there is a need for the nation’s port to operate 24hrs a day for efficiency.

In his words, “the practice of freight forwarding is very important as far as the logistics chain is concerned as it is an economic activity that would help the country.

“We need an efficient infrastructure, our port, road, rail and other modes of transportation to be efficient. We need investment in soft infrastructure, massive transportation modules so that the practice of freight forwarding will be professionalised. The function of CRFFN would be the training of freight forwarders.

“The freight forwarders share a relationship with shippers. They move goods from one point to the other, so they must be trained to avoid things that are negative as far as cargo clearance is concerned.

“And I am talking about delays and how Nigeria will reduce its dwell time. When the freight forwarders are trained, they will help shorten the dwell time.

We need to create a good image for freight forwarders as the image of them being touts has got to stop and there is no time than today. Right now, as they graduate, they should know how to handle their statutory responsibility. Nigeria will merge with the international community in institutionalizing professionalism, honesty, dignity in the profession.

“They should also embrace technology. Our ports must be contactless, paperless. We have to conduct our businesses in the comfort of our offices and this will help in the area of trade facilitation.

It is the role of freight forwarding to ensure that technology was brought to bear for providing solutions to the movement of cargo and this has started today.

Freight forwarders are central to the digitisation of our ports, simplification of our processes.

“It is important that government must pay more attention to international trade.

“There is a need to embrace a port community system to reduce the numbers of documentation.

“Customs is important to the clearance of cargoes but CRFFN needs to be strengthened so as they can grant licenses to agents. The idea of Customs licensing agents is local, we want freight forwarding practice to take a place in the business of port trade.

“Freight Forwarders must be trained to avoid things that are negative in the industry. The image of freight forwarders seen as touts has to stop,” he said.

Speaking earlier, the Registrar of the CRFFN, Barr. Samuel Nwakohu, said the graduation ceremony for graduates in Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Management marks a new vista in the search for fulfilment in line with the mandate of CRFFN.

He said nurturing the council and ensuring that its registered practitioners are professionals, have been a challenging one as a result of stereotyping.

He informed that the average practitioner of old, saw themselves as ‘clearing agents’, whose responsibility begins and ends at the various terminals in the ports.

He however said CRFFN has succeeded in changing the narrative, informing that Freight Forwarding is no longer restricted to the ports but now a long chain.


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