BY YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
Foreign shipping lines have slammed additional N98.8billion surcharge on importers bringing cargoes into the country.
The new surcharge tagged Ports Additional Destination (PAD) which commenced on Tuesday October 10, 2017 attracts a charge of N38,000 for 20 ft container while a 40 ft container is N76,000.
Already, CMA CGM Shipping Nigeria Limited, one of the major shipping agencies, has started collecting the PAD charge from users for their services.
But stakeholders and industry experts have bemoaned the increment, saying the shipping line has contravened the World Trade Organization convention on affreightment
According to the national president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Awimero, the shipping Line is an agent to the carrier who are double agents in Nigeria collecting from their principal- (CARRIER) and from the Nigerian Importers shipping line Charges without any operational cost.
He said, “There is the need to stop the present increase and any other charge that is not tied to services in line with the United Nations Convention on Carriage of Goods by sea (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2005, WTO Articles VIII and the Various Domestic laws and regulation in Nigeria.
“The Provision of the Law authorises the carrier to hand over the goods to the consignee at the port of discharge without any cost, as all cost are embodied in the freight paid by importer based on the law.
“The practice constitutes very high percentage of charges that is not tied to service, which is a contributory factor to the high clearing cost that necessitates the diversion of Nigerian bound Vessel to neighbouring West African Ports”.
Meanwhile, available Industry statistics have shown that 1,020,240 containers were received at Lagos ports in 2010, while in 2011 1,268,758 were discharged at the Lagos Port.
Additional 1,368,000 were received in 2012, 1,396,057 in 2013, 1,551,540 and 1,317,212 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
However, with an average of 1.3 million containers discharging at the Lagos ports yearly, Nigerian importers will pay additional N98.8billion to shipping lines due to the new charges.
The increment, according to maritime experts, would fuel diversion of cargoes to neighbouring ports of Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, among other neighbouring countries.
Speaking in the same vein, the national president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said increasing freight rate at a time Nigerian ports are battling with cargo diversion to neighbouring countries due to high charges is ill timed.
He stated further that the importers would pay the increment but the final consumers would bear the brunt.
He said, “The shipping lines increase charges with impunity at a time Nigerian ports are regarded as the most expensive in the West Africa sub region; we are battling that Nigerian importers carry their cargoes to neighboring countries.
“I have challenged people to go to neighbouring countries to see what this shipping lines are charging. We should go to Cotonou- they have office in Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast- then we should ask how much they charge in this countries compared to Nigeria.
But everyone is behaving like a lawless group in Nigeria where they increase charges with impunity.
“The importers will pay the increment but the consumers will bear the brunt, but on the long run, the Nigerian economy would suffer for it.”
Also speaking, the Founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said the increment ought to double charges.
“I think it will not be an overstatement if we say we are living in a ‘banana republic’ where people just do what they like.
In the first instance, the contract of afreightment has taken care of all this shenanigans. The freight rate paid for the movement of cargoes has taken care of all this.
“It is all about the political will of the government to address corruption because the action of the shipping lines can be regarded as cheating, which is criminal.”
But the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), which serves as the Ports Economic Regulator said it is investigating the matter to know what led to the introduction of the charges.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the Executive Secretary Of the council, Barrister Hassan Bello, said not all shipping companies introduced the charges.
Bello said, “We are investigating and I will get back to you when we are through with the investigation.”