By DAPO OLAWUNI
A group; The Maritime Integrity Initiative (MII) has said that it recently carried out a survey and discovered that multinational shipping companies have abandoned their empty containers at various terminals at Nigerian ports for fifteen years.
Public Relations Officer of MII, Mr.Obinna Austin Obidile in a statement urged the Nigerian Shippers Council to slam a demurrage of N3,000 per day on any of the shipping companies who refused to evacuate their empty containers from the port.
The group lamented that refusal of the shipping companies to evacuate the empty containers has made it difficult for trucks to return empty containers into the port. This, according to the group is the main cause of the traffic gridlock in Apapa.
On shipping companies’ refusal to evacuate their empty boxes from the ports, Obidile said “Empty containers are littered everywhere within the ports making it difficult for those who want to return theirs ; l don’t see the evacuation of these empty containers by their owners (shipping companies) to countries of origin as a big deal”
“It is only that authorities have not taken a stern decision concerning the matter, some of the empties you see have stayed here for over 15 years and their owners are not being given pressure for their evacuation from the ports. But once they are slammed with daily demurrage of N3000 per container starting from the day of receipt be it 10 or 5 years ago, we will begin to witness a mad rush of shipping companies to evacuate them to countries of origin”
“It is very simple, Nigeria has been made a dumping ground by shipping companies and the authorities are doing nothing about it because most of those in authority are stakeholders in these companies and for that, cannot take drastic measures that could affect their interests”
“They should be mandated to evacuate their empties from the seaside as ports are not meant to serve as holding bays for empty containers, and that solves the problem. These bottlenecks are not needed in anyway”
While being specific, he pointedly accused Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) as top on the list of culprits.
“They keep tormenting freight forwarders; once your consignment comes in, they stack it sometimes for months before moving it to a location of their choice ,and to position your container for examination becomes another uphill task because it takes days before that is done,and in all these, the importer keeps losing his money”
“Another one is Hapagloyd ; these shipping companies are not supposed to be allowed to operate as shipping companies, they have brought so much tears to our eyes and the most painful part of it is that they do it with impunity”
“For example, Maerskline is operating from lndia, if you apply for a debit note they get approval first from lndia before they issue you with a debit note; and for them to attend to you, it takes up to two days”
The MII spokesman also accused the Presidential Task Force mandated to evacuate trucks from ports access roads of complicity in the Apapa traffic gridlock.
He said some of them were demanding kick backs at one point or the other, saying that even up until now, the set goal of government setting them up has not been achieved.