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What are the Primary Shipping Routes and Ports of Entry into Nigeria?

Navigating the shipping routes and ports of entry is crucial for businesses looking to import goods into Nigeria. The country’s strategic location on the Gulf of Guinea makes it a key maritime hub in West Africa. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the primary shipping routes, major ports of entry, and the logistics involved in importing goods into Nigeria.

Major Ports of Entry

Nigeria's coastline is dotted with several key ports that handle a significant volume of cargo.

The primary ports of entry include:

  1. Lagos Port Complex (Apapa Port)

  • Location: Lagos

  • Overview: Apapa Port is the largest and busiest port in Nigeria, handling over 60% of the country's imports. It is equipped with modern facilities and serves as a major gateway for containerized goods, bulk cargo, and oil products.

  • Key Features: Multiple terminals, including container terminals operated by APM Terminals, and extensive warehousing facilities.

  1. Tin Can Island Port

  • Location: Lagos

  • Overview: Located close to Apapa Port, Tin Can Island Port is another major hub for imports. It handles a substantial volume of containerized cargo, vehicles, and bulk commodities.

  • Key Features: RoRo (roll-on/roll-off) terminals for vehicle imports, container terminals, and bulk cargo handling facilities.

  1. Port Harcourt Port

  • Location: Rivers State

  • Overview: Serving the oil-rich Niger Delta region, Port Harcourt Port handles both general cargo and petroleum products. It is a vital port for industries in the southeastern part of Nigeria.

  • Key Features: Modern container terminals, bulk cargo handling, and oil jetties.

  1. Onne Port

  • Location: Rivers State

  • Overview: Onne Port is a deepwater port that specializes in oil and gas logistics. It is one of the largest oil and gas free zones in the world and handles a variety of cargo, including project cargo for the oil industry.

  • Key Features: Oil and gas free zone, extensive quay facilities, and deepwater access.

  1. Calabar Port

  • Location: Cross River State

  • Overview: Calabar Port serves the southeastern and central regions of Nigeria. It handles general cargo, bulk cargo, and containerized goods.

  • Key Features: Container terminals, bulk handling facilities, and a strategic location for hinterland access.

Primary Shipping Routes

The primary shipping routes to Nigeria include:

  • Asia to Nigeria: Major shipping lines from China, India, and Southeast Asia follow the route through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Strait of Gibraltar before reaching the West African coast.

  • Europe to Nigeria: European routes typically pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and follow the West African coast down to Nigeria.

  • North America to Nigeria: Ships from North America often take the trans-Atlantic route, passing through the Caribbean and along the West African coast.

Typical Lead Times and Costs Associated with Importing

Understanding lead times and associated costs is essential for efficient import operations.

Lead Times

Lead times for importing goods into Nigeria can vary significantly depending on the point of origin and the type of cargo. Generally:

  • From Asia: Lead times range from 30 to 45 days.

  • From Europe: Lead times range from 20 to 30 days.

  • From North America: Lead times range from 25 to 35 days.

Delays can occur due to port congestion, customs clearance processes, and other logistical challenges. Therefore, it is advisable to factor in potential delays when planning shipments.


Import costs into Nigeria include various components such as:

  1. Shipping Costs:  These depend on the shipping line, cargo volume, and distance. Major shipping lines like Maersk, MSC, and CMA CGM operate services to Nigerian ports.

  2. Port Charges: Fees for unloading, storage, and handling at Nigerian ports.

  3. Customs Duties and Taxes: Import duties, VAT, and other applicable taxes based on the type and value of goods.

  4. Logistics and Transportation: Costs for inland transportation from the port to the final destination, which can be significant given Nigeria's infrastructure challenges.

Specialized Customs Procedures and Documentation Requirements

Importing goods into Nigeria involves navigating specialized customs procedures and ensuring compliance with documentation requirements.

Customs Procedures

  1. Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR): Importers must obtain a PAAR from the Nigeria Customs Service before the arrival of goods. This involves submitting detailed information about the shipment, including invoices and packing lists.

  2. Inspection and Verification: Goods are subject to inspection and verification by customs officials to ensure compliance with regulations and to determine the correct duty payable.

  3. Duty Payment: Import duties and taxes must be paid before goods can be cleared from the port.

Documentation Requirements

The following documents are typically required for importing goods into Nigeria:

  1. Bill of Lading (BL): A document issued by the shipping line, detailing the cargo and the terms of transportation.

  2. Commercial Invoice: An invoice from the exporter to the importer, detailing the goods' value and terms of sale.

  3. Packing List: A detailed list of the contents of the shipment.

  4. Certificate of Origin: A document certifying the country of origin of the goods.

  5. PAAR: The Pre-Arrival Assessment Report issued by Nigeria Customs Service.

  6. Form M: An importation document initiated by the importer and approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria, indicating the intention to import certain goods.


Navigating the shipping routes and ports of entry into Nigeria requires a thorough understanding of the major ports, shipping routes, lead times, costs, and customs procedures. By leveraging this knowledge, businesses can effectively plan their import operations and mitigate potential challenges.


  1. Nigeria Ports Authority: For detailed information on port facilities and services.

  2. Nigeria Customs Service: For up-to-date customs procedures and documentation requirements.

  3. Maersk: For shipping schedules and cost estimates.

  4. Central Bank of Nigeria: For details on Form M and other importation requirements.

By understanding these aspects, businesses can streamline their import processes and ensure a successful entry into the Nigerian market.

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