The Nigerian Shippers’ Council, importers and exporters have rejected congestion surcharge recently introduced by a shipping company, CMA/CGM writes YUSUF BABALOLA
The Nigeria port is believed to be one of the most costliest port to clear cargoes in the West and Central Africa sub-region due to high cost of doing business.
The cost which is compounded by unregulated, unapproved and unreceipted charges by operators, government agencies and clearing agents operating in the seaports.
Shipping companies introduces surcharges on Nigerian importers at will thereby increasing cost of doing business.
The unapproved surcharges have also contributed immensely to diversion of cargoes to neighboring ports while Nigeria continue losing huge transit cargoes of neighbouring landlocked neighbours such as Chad, Niger Republic and part of Burkina Faso to cost friendly neigbouring ports across the sub-region.
For instance, a Singaporean shipping company, CMA/CGM introduced a congestion surcharge on Nigerian port. The shipping company said it had to introduce the $400 (N144,000) obnoxious charge due to increase in operational costs and service disruption in the country.
The statement reads, “CMA/CGM, said it had resolved to introduce N144,000 congestion surcharge on 20and 40ft container from October 15, 2018.
The company identified increase in operational costs and service disruption, as factors responsible for the fresh surcharge.
In a circular issued, CMA CGM said, “Port congestion at Lagos ports, Nigeria, is currently increasing our operational costs and generating severe service disruption for several weeks.
“CMA CGM will therefore implement the following Emergency Congestion Surcharge on Lagos import cargo:
Effective October 15, 2018 (B/L date) for non-FMC trades and November 5, 2018 (B/L date) for FMC trades: From worldwide to Apapa and Tincan, Nigeria All cargo dry, reefer, OOG and break bulk prepaid and paid in addition to the ocean freight USD 400 / EUR 350 per 20′ Dry and Reefer USD 400 / EUR 350 per 40′ Dry and Reefer.”
But, even though, CMA/CGM is not the only shipping company operating in Nigeria, it is the only one introducing the surcharge.
Although the introduction of the surcharge was met with stiff opposition by stakeholders especially the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) which serves as economic regulator, clearing agents, importers and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on this, a source in the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) said the Council frowns at the introduction of the surcharge especially at a time the country just exited recession.
He said, “The council is not at home with the obnoxious charges because the country just exited recession and there are prediction it may slide back into recession. So, introducing something like this at this time would definitely slide the country into recession and increase inflation.”
Also speaking, the executive secretary of the NSC, Barr. Hassan Bello, declared the charges illegal, null and void.
Bello said the Council which serves as the economic regulator was not carried along in the introduction of the fresh surcharge.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the introduction, Bello bemoaned the planned introduction of the congestion surcharge without the input of the council.
He said until the Council gives a go ahead, the surcharge remained illegal.
Bello said, “There is no such charge. there is nothing like that and if there is an intention to do that, it is null and void until they have negotiated with the Nigerian Shippers Council and until Nigerian Shipper Council gives them the go ahead it will be illegal.”
However, the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has described the introduction of the congestion surcharge as an illegality and a criminal offense.
The vice president of ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, advised all Nigerian importers to stop shipping their cargoes through the company.
He argued that already, shipping companies collect N60,000 administrative charges on all forty foot container, despite the contract of affreightment entered into by the importer and the shipping lines abroad and payment of freight.
He said , “We have carefully looked at the proposed congestion surcharge being planned on Nigerian bound cargo by CMA CGM, which will commence by 15th of October and we want to say that, we don’t know why it is being proposed because we don’t have congestion at our ports, there are questions that need to be asked when you talk about placing surcharge on a cargo.
“The first one is contract of affreightment which has been entered into by the importer and the shipping lines, if you now slam a charge on them called congestion surcharge, the question is do we have congestion at our ports? The answer is no!
“Even if there are operational challenges in the port that attracts additional cost, does this warrant slamming congestion surcharge on Nigerian bound cargo? But because they have been doing it and nobody has challenged them, this time around we are challenging them and we are saying that it is illegal, it negates the federal government policy on ease of doing business, and we are advising importers not to ship their cargoes through CMA CGM from 15th of October, they should look for any other shipping line that is not collecting such money and put your cargo.”
Farinto said the new charge by CMA CGM equals N144,000 and it was like milking Nigerians dry, adding that this cannot happen in developed economies.
“This is obtaining money under false pretence which is a criminal offence, and if CMA CGM goes ahead to collect this charge,we would arrest the MD of CMA CGM and drag ourselves to EFCC, whatever is collected from Nigerian importers would be paid back to them,” he added.
According to him, shipping companies were the main reason why cargoes were not being moved out of the ports as expected because they lacked a holding bay that can hold the number of containers they ship into Nigeria.
“Already, there is the N60,000 administrative charge being collected by every shipping company on forty foot containers, what is this charge for haven paid for freight abroad? They look at Nigeria as a fertile land where you can make illegitimate money,”he added.
Also kicking against the planned introduction of surcharge, the Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), said the government should levy surcharge on shipping companies and not the other way round.
The president of the association, Rev. Jonathan Nicol said, “We have read from online reports that Messrs CGM CMA has introduced $400 dollars for congestion fee per consignment in addition to all other charges now in contest. The empty containers are the property of the shipping lines which normally collect container deposits for their boxes in transit. On prompt return of the empty containers, the importer can claim back his deposit. It is a known fact that empty containers do not have access to the ports with ease as before.
“Congestion fee should be passed on to the shipping lines and their subsidiaries, the terminal operators who receive the empty containers on behalf of their clients -the shipping companies, while awaiting export of the empty boxes.
“It is believed that at least a thousand empty containers should be exported daily since over 800 full loaded containers are delivered to various consignees daily. Shippers’ Association of Lagos State is worried and do not want to press charges on all the port regulators,” he further said.