The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has lampooned the Nigerian Shippers Council for allegedly not doing enough in protection of Nigerian shippers, especially in the face of shipping companies refusal to pay up container deposits to clearing agents.
Zonal Coordinator West of ANLCA, Sir John Oforbike in a chat with our correspondent that shipping companies and terminal operators were acting as they please at Nigerian ports because the Nigeria Shippers Council has refused to live up to its expectation.
He described the Shippers Council as “very weak” outfit which has outlived its relevance in the port system.
Container deposit is one out of the numerous charges collected by shipping companies in Nigeria, it is paid by the clearing agent and retrieved back at the return of the container.
However, operators have lamented that this practice has turned a means of extortion where shipping companies make profit from Nigerian port users because of the bad access roads to the port.
Clearing agents at Nigerian ports recently alleged that shipping companies, especially Maersk Line was now refusing to pay container deposits to the clearing agents, while some of them are insisting on paying the fee directly to the importer’s account.
Oforbike argued that this is an aberration because the clearing agent is the representative of the importer who sometimes source for money to pay up container deposits on his own.
According to him, “There is so many friction in the maritime industry today, things that are happening are no longer normal, there is no more law, no checks and balances, it is like a war situation for so many years now”
“The Shipping companies and terminal operators were doing as they please, the Shippers Council that is supposed to checkmate them are not doing so, the Shippers Council are very very weak, they have reached their peak where they cannot so anything again, there is no law guiding shipping operations in Nigeria anymore”
“When you bring cargo into this country, all your container deposits is finished before you return the empty container, even though the traffic on the roads is not your making, it takes months for us to drop empty containers, when your container deposit finishes, the shipping companies will continue debiting you, this teams that you are owing them”
“Today, there is nobody protecting the importer”
“Today, some shipping companies are saying that they have to pay back container deposits to the importer’s account, this is wrong because the importer is not doing self clearance, it is we that are registered, we are licensed by Customs, and those goods are being held for Customs, after the duty is paid, they release it to the clearing agents, it is also the agent that pays the deposit, he acts on behalf of the importer”
The ANLCA big wig argued that shipping companies should care less if the clearing agent pay back the deposit to his importer or not, because some of the agent source and pay this money from their pockets.