By DAPO OLAWUNI
Licensed Customs Agents operating at Nigerian Ports have passed a vote of no confidence on the Nigerian Shippers Council, saying that the agency has become a lame duck, while foreign shipping companies continue to rip off Nigerian port users through container deposit refund.
Container Deposit Refund is a big multibillion Naira scam at the port where importers are made to pay not less than N400,000 for a forty foot container and N200,000 per twenty foot container as deposits to the shipping companies.
On returning the said containers, the shipping company is expected to refund the money to the clearing agent, but most times, they allegedly do not.
Speaking with DAILY TREND in Lagos last week, Leader of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in the West, Chief Alfred Oforbike John, said that many shipping companies don’t return the container deposits.
He lambasted the Nigerian Shippers Council, especially it’s Shippers Complaints Department, for making no meaningful impact in the life of the struggling importers and agents.
“The shipping companies are private business people who came to make money, who is supposed to regulate them? The Nigerian Shippers Council, but the agency has been given to politicians, no professionals.
“I have been in the port for several years as Chairman of licensed agents, this issue of container deposits is a total rip off, we have gone to picket their offices on so many occasions, some of them complied.
“If you go to Grimaldi Shipping, the moment your container is returned, they give you your money immediately, but if you go to other Shipping companies, hardly you would get your container deposit refund back.
‘When we disturbed them so much, they told us that they would be paying to the importer and we should submit our importers numbers. However they do not pay our importers, the importer would tell you that he has not received any alert, and he would come back to you”
“The government Agency who supposed to regulate them and ensure compliance are the ones to blame, the Shippers Council that are supposed to protect Nigerian Shippers are not doing anything.
“They have a complaints department, if you go there, they would push you around and at the end of the day, nothing happens” Oforbike said
The ANLCA Chieftain called on the Federal Government to look into the concerns of vessels coming into Nigeria and dumping expired containers at the ports.
According to him, this is further heightened by the fact that many of the shipping companies do not have empty container holding bays.
“Containers are left at the back of trucks while the refund is depleting, this is because the shipping companies have no holding bays.
“The transporters on the other hand would be charging you for keeping him down. If the wait becomes unbearable, the truckers would dump the empty containers on the road, this is why you see containers littering some areas.
“We have been saying it for several years that, whenever a vessel arrives with one thousand containers, it should go back at least with 500, let the other 500 containers be for exploit.
“The containers usually expire, so the shipping companies come to Nigeria with those expired containers that has expired and dump them here.
“The Shippers Council would tell you that they have a complaints department, you would write so many letters but nothing is done.
“The terminal operators also do not have equipment but they would charge you, they would not transfer your container when they supposed to, you didn’t asked for your container to be taken to bonded terminals, but they would take it there without your consent, they would tell you that they are going to charge you, but what about the shipping companies? Those ones would continue to charge you.
“We have written to Shippers Council to hold every operators that cannot transfer the containers stemmed to them for the demurrage and rent” Oforbike stated.