- Congestion Surcharge: Freight Forwarders Threaten to Stop Port Operations
Freight forwarders have threatened to shut down operations at the nation’s seaports over what they describe as arbitrary charges by shipping companies.
The latest of such charges, according to the agents, is the congestion surcharge which foreign shipping lines are reportedly imposing on importers.
An importer, Eddy Akwaeze, lamented the reintroduction of the congestion surcharge and urged the Federal Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority to intervene.
The Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr. Osita Chukwu, faulted the introduction of the surcharge, noting that the congestion was not the fault of importers but the deplorable situation of the road which made it difficult for people to get their goods out on time or return empty containers.
He said that freight forwarders were fighting to stop the surcharge and had threatened that they would stop work if it was not reversed.
He urged the government to prevail on the shipping companies to stop charging for demurrage on containers, noting that whereas the shipping companies were supposed to have holding bays, they were rather taking advantage of the traffic situation at the ports access roads which had caused trucks to be in queue for weeks waiting to get into the ports.
He advised the shipping companies to adopt the style at the Cotonou port where shipping companies would offload cargoes and use their trucks to convey them to importers’ warehouses instead of allowing the importers to go home with the containers.
He said, “Due to the demurrage charges on containers, the shipping companies do not refund anything to the importers after they have deposited money. By the time you get there, all your deposits are finished and they will even tell you that you owe them because you have spent all the time on the road trying to get into the port.”
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ify Haastrup, had expressed concerns some months earlier about the gridlock in Apapa and the congestion at the ports, saying it might lead to a return of congestion surcharge because vessels were spending longer time than they were expected to stay in Nigeria.
She said that before the concession of the ports, Nigeria spent $100m on congestion surcharge every year.
This is the first time in 11 years that congestion surcharge would be imposed on importers.
In October, stakeholders also kicked against the Port Additional Destination charges introduced by shipping companies and importers were expected to pay N38,000 for a 20-ft container and N76,000 for a 40-ft container.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mickey Excellency Nigeria Limited, Abdulazeez Babatunde, lamented that importers were forced to pay all kinds of arbitrary charges, stressing that the government should step in and control the situation.