Why Nigerian importers kicked against surcharge on cargo by international shipping firms

Hassan Bello

THERE is increasing tension at seaports in Nigeria because of the surcharge imposed on importers by international shipping firms. Realnews reports that the Nigeria Shippers Council is also warming up for a fight with the shippers.

The importers complain that the surcharge spikes the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports.

This is in addition to the challenges of inadequate infrastructure and cumbersome shipping process they encounter at the port.

Some importers said one of the foreign shipping firms – Hapag-Lloyd in the last nine months has imposed a revised Peak Season Surcharge, PSS, on Tin Can Island and Apapa ports in Lagos.

Hapag-Lloyd imposed the PSS on all container types from across the world to Tin Can Island and Apapa ports.

Realnews reports that documents provided by the importers showed that about $1025 surcharge is slammed on 20 feet (ft) and 40ft containers on cargoes coming from United States and US territories, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Charges from cargoes from the rest of the world are also pegged at $1025 or EUR 930 accordingly.

The charges are different from the ocean tariff rates as well as bunker-related surcharges, security-related surcharges, terminal handling charges, among others that shore up the cost of shipping in Nigeria.

Realnews gathered that Hapag LIoyd began implementing the charges from December 15, 2019, and will continue surcharge till further notice.

Critical industries in Nigeria are already groaning under the new charges, lamenting that the high prices are shocking its profits, which has already been crashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hassan Bello, executive secretary and chief executive officer, Nigerian Shippers Council, described the charges as economic sabotage, saying the council is moving vehemently against the action of the shipping firm.

Bello said: “We are protesting against it vehemently. There was no notice to us and the shippers that the charge was imminent. From our intelligence these charges are over $1,000. It is discriminatory. It is insensitive. Just when the Nigerian economy is recovering a little bit from the effect of COVID-19, it is insensitive for anybody to slam such charges of over $1,000 on Nigeria’s trade.

“It is discriminatory because it is not happening in Togo, Benin or Ghana, why should it be in Nigeria. “We have written a strong letter to the shipping association of Nigeria and we also wrote to their principals overseas, because this is not a local charge.

“Why should Nigeria be the recovery ground for shipping companies? We have three lines of action on the internal level; we are going to call on the Union of Africa’s Shippers’ Council; Global Shippers’ Association and Global Shippers Forum. “On the national level, we are rallying round the organized private sector, I am already in talk with Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), I will talk to Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, as well as big time shippers like Dangote and Nigerian Breweries among others.

“We should all come together and fight against these unnecessary charges. The charges are unilateral and arbitral and we are going to protest against it because it is economic sabotage. It goes deep into Nigeria’s economy recovery. It is against our resolve to recover from the effect of COVID-19,” he said.

Chairman, Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nichol bemoaned the shipping costs, expressing the group’s readiness to take it up with appropriate agencies.

Nichol said the surcharge could be linked to congestion at Lagos ports, but it is uncalled for, considering the negative effect of COVID-19, “we will certainly induce discussions on this with the Shippers Council”. He stressed the need to review the costs of shipping in Nigeria, noting that “importers hardly make profit” due to excessive charges.

Kingsley Chikezie, president, Importers Association of Nigeria, said the importers are not happy about the additional charges from the shipping firm, even at a time they were complaining about high cost of shipping at the ports.

Chikezie said a lot of things are happening at the ports including the issue of transfer charges among others, appealing to the authorities to ensure urgent review of the charges.

However, some industrialists whom were severely affected by the surcharge burden have urged the Federal Government to institute litigation against the erring shipping firm for operating against the rule of trade facilitation agenda of International Maritime Organisation, IMO, during the pandemic period.

Ogunlade Olabisi, managing director of WellWaters Resources, called on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to intervene on the issue. “I think there is a need for the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection to take up legal action against the shipping firm.

After all, it is their responsibility to protect consumers in the country.”

An official of a major manufacturing firm, who wishes anonymity, said the agenda of the shipping firm is self-serving and profiteering, which is in contradiction of the trade facilitation rule.

Before now, CMA CGM and Maersk Shipping had earlier slammed surcharge on Nigerian bound cargoes.

Realnews gathered that despite the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hapag-LIoyd, a German container shipping company, netted profit in the first six months of this year.

Its profit stood at $314 million in H1 2020, compared to $165 million seen in the corresponding period a year earlier.

– Aug. 19, 2020 @ 12:49 GMT |

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