By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Nigerian Shippers Council has taken a bold step to protest the indiscriminate charges by the multinational shipping firms, who have continued to slam huge surcharge on Nigerian-bound cargoes, even as it warned that the Council would no longer hesitate to shut down any terminal operators that fails to comply with government’s directives.
The Executive Secretary of the Council, Barr Hassan Bello at an enlarged stakeholders meeting at the Council headquarters in Apapa yesterday said it was not acceptable for Nigerian bound cargoes to be paying $1000 surcharge on cargoes, saying that this would be resisted by the council as it would harm Nigerian economy.
The six companies involved in slamming the charges are; COSCO Shipping, Maersk Line, MSC, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Evergreen Shipping.
The meeting had in attendance the Organised Private Sector (OPS) as well as industrialists under the aegies of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Frright Forwarders among others.
The 2020 peak period charges of between $1000 and $1,500 per twenty-foot equivalent unit(TEU) by shipping firms, is over 400 percent increase from the previous $200 freight charge per TEU during peak period.
Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello, said, “the charge is scary. If a Nigeria-bound container is charged as much as $1000, then the national economy is in trouble.
He expressed worry that the surcharge was introduced at a time when the nation is slammed with such charges.
Bello lamented that the charges would lead to ” spiral inflation rate on the economy; cargoes will be abandoned at the ports; it means job losses and many shippers will be put out of business,”
He said the charges are “astronomic, unjustified, not notified and discriminatory. This is against fair trade facilitation rules”.
The NSC boss explained that it has written to the erring firms and is now waiting for responses accordingly.
“We have also written to ministry of transporstation to escalate it to ministry of trade and ministry of foreign affairs, and the Federal Government will protest the charges.
“We have been having surcharge in the range of $200 to $400, but 400 per cent increase and there was no time limit. Its already going to nine months and this is not what any economy can cope with.
” This can cripple the economy,” Bello said.
Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman expressed disappointment about the charges, saying that it might result to more cargoes being abandoned at the ports.
Usman, who was represented by the General Manager,Tariff and Billings, Abubakar Garba Umar, said, ” if the importers are charged so high and they abandoned them in the port, NPA will lose revenue and it would reduce efficiency and turn around of ships to Nigerian port,” she said
Director-General, Lagos Chamber for Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said the industries would resist the charges because this is not the best of time for businesses generally.
Olufemi Emmanuel of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said it is a capital No to the surcharge because it is coming at a time when manufacturers are working with less staff, less raw material and lower profit.
He said, “the price of goods will skyrocket and cost of transports will be unbearable”.
Representative of Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Margaret Orakwusi, said the surcharge would affect commerce critically.
“If our members borrowed huge money to import items and they are slammed this huge amount, then it would affect the banks too,” he said.
Large scale importers such as Dangote Group and Promasidor bemoaned the arbitrary charges by shipping companies, expressing readiness to protest the charges with all mercineries.
Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, called for a collaboration with ECOWAS on the arbitrary charges.
“It will affect our economy seriously because Nigeria is an import dependent economy,” he said.
President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Increase Uche, said the peak season surcharge is unaceptable., saying that the new normal does not give room for acceptability of such charges.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Shippers Council enforcement and regulatory team led by the Deputy Director, Monitoring and Enforcement, Mrs Celine Ifeora yesterday embarked a clampdown exercise against some container terminal operators.
She said the council has been inundated with various complaints of importers cargoes being diverted to offdock terminals without the consent of the owners.
Ifeora warned that the act is no longer acceptable by the Council and that the enforcement team would ensure that regulated service providers comply with the nation’s rules and regulations before they would be reopend.