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Extortion: FG moves against foreign shipping lines

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Extortion: FG moves against foreign shipping lines

After 13 years of extortion, the Nigerian government has abolished container deposit in order to free Nigerian importers from the bondage of foreign shipping lines. It is believed that the new step will stem inflation and reduce cost of shipping. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

There is move by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to halt the payment of container deposit charged by shipping lines in the port sector.

It was learnt that the deposit is another conduit pipe introduced by the liners to extort Nigerian importers.

Findings revealed that importers deposit as much as N200, 000 per 40 feet container within Lagos and N400, 000 outside Lagos.

Also, 20 feet container attracts N100, 000 within Lagos and N200, 000 outside Lagos.

In addition, importers pay as much as N170, 000 and N180, 000 as terminal fee. Automatic demurrage also attracts N100,000.

 

 

The deposit

Container deposit is demanded from importers by shipping companies as a guarantee for the return of their containers to the port.

In the agreement between shipping lines and importers, deposit is expected to be refunded once the empty containers are returned to the liners by the importers.

Unfortunately, an aspect of the terms and conditions of the transactions stipulates that except the containers are returned on time, the deposit would be forfeited.

Customs agents have complained over the years that the shipping companies either look for excuse to deny them of the refund.

It was gathered that shipping lines were hiding under the protracted gridlock at the port roads to cheat importers, having realised that they would never meet the deadline of returning the containers to the ports.

 

 

Accusation

Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) had already accused the foreign shipping lines of arbitrary extortion.

According to the chamber, some liners are contributing significantly to the inflation in the country through the introduction of the deposit.

Its President, Mr Andrew Isichei, complained in Lagos recently that the deposit was very unfriendly to the country’s economy.

He said: “The truth is that shipping companies are exploiting Nigerians to improve their bottom line. The kind of deposit they request is very enormous and unfriendly to the survival of any country. Therefore, they contribute to significant inflation in this country through the container deposit that they charge. They also use different tactics to receive the containers back, so that they will be receiving more money and at the end of the day, whatever they give you is next to nothing.”

 

 

Decision

Worried by the intractable challenge, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barrister Hassan Bello, said in Lagos that government would no longer allow the foreign liners to milk Nigerian importers.

According to him, it is for this reason that the NSC decided to embark on stakeholders’ registration in a bid to obtain their relevant data and use same to press for the abolition of the container deposits.

Bello said that the gesture was capable of stemming inflation and the cost of doing business at the nation’s ports.

Already, the executive secretary has held a meeting with some of the shipping companies in Lagos, saying that container deposit fee had constituted about 80 per cent of the complaints from importers.

Bello added that the whole idea of abolishing the deposit was to create a balance in the course of doing business at the nation’s ports.

Bello noted: “If you stifle a shipper, you will run him out of business. The council wants a situation whereby you charge according to services rendered.

“The return of container deposit takes a lot of time and most times importers forego these deposits. We want to ensure that shipping companies and terminal operators and other operators key into the government initiative of the Ease of Doing Business in the ports, so that we can have very good rating by the World Bank and therefore, attract investors to Nigeria.”

 

 

Registration

He stressed the need to register service providers and port users in view of the fact that the deposit was the only shipping lines’ guarantee that the importers would return their containers.

Bello said: “The registration is a ‘know your customer’ basis, on an international framework. It is to ensure that our customers are known to us and to the authorities who provide them with service.”

 

The executive secretary noted the council decided to abolish the payment of deposit on containers, having been convinced that it was avoidable and burdensome.

Bello further assured importers that the council was determined to simplify the process of cargo clearing in Nigeria, not only to ensure the ease of doing business in Nigeria but to physically ensure that the ports and the port users operate in a cost effective environment.

The executive secretary stressed that his plan was to realise the nation’s vision of a national single window through the cheap cargo tracking note regime, saying that this would ensure genuine timeliness in cargo evacuation from the ports.

 

 

Stakeholders’ support

 

The Secretary of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, Haulage Section, Mr Godwin Ikeji, and other stakeholders who supported the decision of the council said that the abolition of the deposit would change a lot of things for better for importers and other port users.
For instance, Ikeji said that his association had been advocating that the container deposit be abolished for years.

 

He argued that if the deposit was abolished, the shipping agents would be forced to go in search of their containers and the unnecessary delay at the ports would be reduced.

 

Also, National President of the National Council of the Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr Lucky Eyis Amiwero, said that the decision by NSC on the abolition of container deposit was a right step in the right direction.

 

He advised the council to pursue the abolition to a logical conclusion, so that the port industry and the economy could reap the benefits.

 

 

Last line

 

Cancellation of superfluous charges at the seaports will reduce inflation and cost of doing business in Nigeria.

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