By Chris Ndibe
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has described as ‘unreasonable and unacceptable the indiscriminate’ high surcharges by multinational shipping firms on Nigerian-bound cargoes.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said this during a meeting with stakeholders to discuss current increase in peak season surcharges on Nigerian trade route.
Those who attended the meeting included the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and the Nigerian shipping community.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 2020 peak period charges of between $1000 and $1,500 per twenty-foot equivalent unit(TEU) by shipping firms, is over 400 per cent increment from the previous $200 freight charge per TEU during peak period.
The six companies allegedly involved in this act are Cosco, Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Evergreen shipping.
“The charge is scary. If a Nigeria-bound container is charged as much as $1000, then the national economy is in trouble,” Bello said.
He expressed worry that the surcharge was introduced at a wrong time, adding that it would lead to spiral inflation rate on the economy as cargoes would be abandoned at the ports.
He noted that except the situation was urgently addressed, it might lead to job losses while many companies might go under.
“The charges are astronomic, unjustified, not notified and discriminatory.
“This is against fair trade facilitation rules, we have written to the erring firms and waiting for responses.
“We have also written to the Ministry of Transportation to escalate it to Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Federal Government to protest the charges.
“We have been having surcharge in the range of $200 to $400, but 400 per cent increase and there is no time limit, any economy cannot cope with it as it can cripple the economy,” Bello said.
Director-General, Lagos Chamber for Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said the industries would resist the charges because the timing was most unsuspicious for business owners generally.
Olufemi Immanuel from MAN said the surcharge was unacceptable because it was coming at a time when manufacturers were working with less staff, less raw material and lower profits.
Mrs Margaret Orakwusi, Representative of NACCIMA, said the surcharge would affect commerce critically as members borrowed huge money to import items.
On arbitrary charges by terminal operators, Mrs Celine Ifeora, NSC Deputy Director, Regulatory Services, said the council would ensure that regulated service providers complied with the nation’s rules and regulations.
She added that the NSC would not tolerate failure of terminal operators to refund illegal money collected from shippers, as they were previously directed.
“We have come to enforce shippers council’s regulatory authority on the Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and to mandate them to comply with the rules.
“The message we are sending out is that we want to make the port work and so cutting corners will not help anybody,” she said.