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FG bemoans extortion of importers by shipping companies



THE Federal Government through the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has expressed concerns over the imposition of all kinds of surcharges by multi-national shipping companies bringing cargoes into the country.
The ports economic regulator is particularly worried that most of the surcharges were imposed on Nigerian shippers contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr Hassan Bello who described the surcharges as unjustifiable said the Council will take the matter up with the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) to call the different shipping lines and their agents to order.
Bello explained that while some of the charges were supposed to be temporary, reduced or cancelled as allowed by UNCTAD and as the situation in the ports changes, the shipping lines have maintained a permanent imposition of the charges on helpless shippers.
He said what is worrisome is that even incidents of piracy that have nothing to do with Nigeria are given different colorations in what is targeted at placing a surcharge on cargoes coming to Nigeria.
He said, “Everything that happens, even if it is in Togo or Benin Republic, it is attributed to have taken place in Nigeria. Even local infractions like somebody just enters the ship illegally even without weapons, it is reported as incidence of piracy. But that is not piracy, it is probably robbery incident. Piracy is total command of the ship on the high sea”.
He said the Council apart from other measures locally will reach out to the GSF directly or through the African Shippers Forum (ASF) to address the issues of surcharges.
The ASF collaborates with GSF to reach out to shipping lines in different continents doing business with the West and Central African sub-region to address issues of arbitrary surcharges.
The Director, Special Duties, NSC, Mr. TahirIdris who gave an insight into the different surcharges told maritime journalists that the shipping agencies often ignore to suspend the surcharges even with the knowledge that the situation which justified their imposition has changed.
He said, “it seems to be permanently being deployed as it is mostly built into the freight cost from parent companies”.
Among the surcharges identified by the Council include Peak Season Surcharge (PSS); Extra Risk Insurance (ERI)/Carrier Security Fee (CSF) surcharge; Congestion Surcharge (CS); Freight Tax Surcharge (FTS); Operations Cost Recovery (OCR); Low Sulphur surcharge (LSS); B.A.F (Bunker Adjustment Surcharge) and C.A.F. (Currency Adjustment Surcharge).
The surcharges, Idris explained are fees collected by shipping companies in addition to freight rate prevailing in Nigerian seaports.
He said, “There are about eight or more surcharges imposed on Nigerian ports. The UNCTAD provisions in its Article 16 of the code stipulates that surcharges imposed on cargo moving to and from a particular port shall be regarded as temporary and likewise shall be increased, reduced or cancelled subject to when the situation in the port changes.
“But what we have observed is that, we hardly witness a total suspension of these surcharges as was intended to be a temporary measure, designed to bring equity in the recovery of some unexpected costs increases or losses. It seems to be permanently being deployed as it is mostly built into the freight cost from parent companies”.
Nigerian shippers and freight forwarders have expressed bitterness over the surcharges being collected on goods destined for Nigeria

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