Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello.

The Union of African Shippers Councils UASC has said that shippers must be involved in all decision making processes that lead to freight reviews and other issues as against the current trend where the shipping lines unilaterally impose freights and surcharges without cargo owners’ inputs.

Recall that the UASC, made up of shippers councils from 16 nations in the West and Central African sub-region had held a three -day conference in Abuja last month, Nigeria’s capital city where far reaching decisions were taken, which include evolving a mechanism to resist the rampant imposition of surcharges and levies on shipping service users in the sub-region.

The union had also taken its protest to a meeting of Global Shippers Forum GSF, which held in London later in the month, where it made a strong case for involving shippers in all decision making processes.

Chairman, Standing Committee on Trade and Transport of the union, Hassan Bello, who spoke in an interview at the sidelines of the just concluded Global Maritime Security Conference GMSC in Abuja, last week, disclosed that the resolutions at the London follow-up meeting were quite ‘practical and encouraging’.

He noted that this in the sense that there is the beginning of the awareness and consciousness that shippers must be included in the decision making processes not only in terms of fixing of freight rates and surcharges, but also other issues that affect them and their business interests.

 “If we must practice shipping, shipping companies and cargo owners must come together to fix prices, there must be transparency and openness in the entire processes. It is not that we are opposed to certain changes once in a while, but let shippers be involved in all the decision making processes”, he said

He disclosed that the responses after the GSF event in London have been very encouraging, as plans are being concluded to hold another GSF in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city sometime in March or April next year.

It was gathered that many of the European, Asian and American countries including the United Kingdom and Sri-Lanka are currently scrambling to host the Abuja GSF event slated for 2020, an indication that many of these foreign liners are under pressure to yield to the demands of the African shippers.

Bello, who doubles as Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council, expressed optimism that the decisions at the Union of African Shippers Council’s summit in Abuja would be connected to the GSF event, which will be a good starting point.

While speaking at the UASC conference on the issues of arbitrary increase in charges and introduction of new nomenclatures by multinational shipping, Bello had said member states of UASC should insist that shippers, who are also critical stakeholders in the global supply chain must be consulted before the imposition of new charges.

He had enjoined shippers councils in the sub-region to resort to legislations should the foreign liners continue to impose arbitrary charges on them without negotiation, he however said shippers must take time to study and ask questions on the components of such new charges and agree on their justification before payments..

He had said: “Being part of the decision making before new charges are introduced was the best for all as the ship owners will be in a position to explain the reasons for such charges. Shippers must be part of the decision making process on charges. Sometimes, if you are part of the decision making process, it will even help the ship owners. There are things you may see and sypathise with them and agree.

“We can do a lot of things through legislations. If the foreign ship owners insist that that we cannot be part of the negotiation, we apply the legislation because there is no law that says we cannot negotiate with them.

“If we fail to negotiate, fight and reduce arbitrary charges not only on behalf of shippers but also for our national economies, then we should be dissolved. These charges are affecting our national economies. They cause inflation because all the charges are passed down to you and I as the final consumers. It means that the standard of living will reduce drastically because of the issue of affordability. If there is monopoly then we don’t have a choice. So we are doing this not only for the shippers but also for the service providers. I want Shippers Councils to be total, to look at the whole economy. We should work towards having the law so that we can do what we ought to do urgently”.