Cosco bows to pressure, refunds N3.5m arbitrary demurrage charge …Pledges allegiance to Shippers Council
Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello
BY FRANCIS EZEM
Strong indications emerged that Cosco Shipping (Nigeria) Agency Limited has succumbed to pressure by the Nigerian Shippers Council, the nation’s apex Economic Regulator for the ports and has refunded the N3.5million demurrage charge disputed by Sunflag Nigeria Ltd, a steel firm.
A combined team of officials of the council and operatives from the Police Mobile Force had last week sealed off the operating office of Cosco Shipping located in Apapa, Lagos indefinitely over allegations of excessive demurrage billing on the steel importing firm.
This was sequel to a petition by Sunflag to the council in which it alleged that the shipping agency imposed arbitrary demurrage charges on it, which the council investigated and directed Cosco to refund all arbitrarily imposed demurrage charges put at N3.5million.
Deputy Director of the council in charge of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement Unit, Chief Cajethan Agu, who confirmed this development in a telephone interview, also disclosed that in addition to refunding the excessive demurrage charges of N3.5million, the company has also pledged its allegiance to the council as the port industry economic regulator.
According to him, the management of Cosco, led by its Chief Executive Officer, Saeed Karchi has assured the council that going forward, the company would henceforth ensure strict compliance with the country’s economic and port regulations.
This declaration by Cosco might not be unconnected with the fact that it has ran into similar troubles several times, which also led to closure of its business premises for imposing arbitrary shipping charges on hapless shippers not only Sunflag.
“The Managing Director of the company has made a pledge to the council that he is Nigeria to do business and would therefore comply with all trade regulations and obey extant laws of the land and the council has also assured that as a regulator, it will continue to provide a level playing field for all operators as well as promoting equity and fairness among all stakeholders”, Chief Agu said.
He also said that the sealed premises has since been opened for business, arguing that the council has no reason to prolong the closure one minute longer than necessary, especially since the issues have been resolved between both parties.
Recall that the council had in February this year sealed the Apapa office of the Chinese Container shipping agency for some hours over allegations by Sunflag Steel Nigeria Limited that it imposed $23,000 arbitrary demurrage charges on it, which it later refunded part.
The council had following a similar disagreement between Nestle Plc and another shipping company, Gulf Agency Company GAC, warned stakeholders to always play the game by the rules, insisting that it would no longer tolerate dissipating of energy and resources on such issues arising from business transactions that should be properly documented.
Executive Secretary/CEO of the council, Mr. Hassan Bello had in a recent chat, reiterated the commitment of the council towards ensuring equity and fairness in all issues relating to port regulations in the interest of all stakeholders and Nigeria’s economy at large.
He had assured that as a regulator and a moderator, the council will always seek to protect the massive investments by terminal operators and shipping companies but also insisted that the council will not tolerate exploitation of importers and exporters, especially in terms of imposition of arbitrary charges and fees, saying ‘everyone must play by the rules of the game’.
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