BY BODE GBADEBO, EMAMEH GABRIEL |
The Senate, yesterday, mandated its Committee on Marine Transport to engage stakeholders in the shipping industry including the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) with a view to curbing the exorbitant increase in shipping fees being paid by importers to shipping lines.
The resolution was sequel to a motion, titled “The exorbitant increase and unjustifiable shipping fees charged by shipping companies on Nigeria-bound cargoes,” sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra South) at plenary.
Presenting the motion, Senator Ubah noted that “Nigeria is an import-driven economy with excessive dependence on imports for consumption and capital goods.”
He also explained that shipping sector is key in facilitating the continuity of economic activities, ensuring supply chains to industries, transportation of essential goods, including energy and food supplies, and transportation of vital medical and protective equipment in Nigeria.
According to him, “The vessels coming to Nigerian port queue longer when compared to other countries (30 days) before bathing at our port due to various charges.”
He added that “the cost of shipping goods into Nigerian ports is among the highest in the world with the figure for Apapa Port costing more than thrice of that to Tema, Ghana and five times higher than that of Durban, South Africa.”
The lawmaker also lamented that a report on overseas cargo and freight costs by Mover DB, an online resources for international shipping shows that the cost of shipping both 20-foot and 40-foot containers to Lagos is among the most expensive globally, disclosing that the report covers the shipping costs of 47 port cities globally.
This development, he said, has forced importers to abandon their cargoes in the port, thereby making the NPA lose revenue and reducing the efficiency and turnaround of ships to Nigerian ports.
Senator Ubah listed charges in other countries as $3,200 from China to Ghana, $3,000 to Cotonou and from $3,200 to $8,500 few months ago to Nigeria, pointing out that this has “caused unjust hardship to Nigerians as importers transfer expenditure to both traders and consumers.”
He recalled that in May 2017, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was acting president at the time, signed an Executive Order directing 24-hour operations at the Apapa Port and outlawing unofficial charges at the ports.
According to him, “This order was aimed at improving the ease of doing business and reducing the high costs at the ports, but available statistics suggest that these unjustifiable charges and extortions by shipping agencies and law enforcement officers at the ports have continued till date.”
He, however, warned that the development could cause a spiral inflation on the nation’s economy if urgent action was not taken by the government.