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

Francis Ezem

The Nigerian Shippers Council NSC, the country’s economic regulator for the seaports has directed all shipping lines operating in the country to suspend all charges associated with demurrage till the end of the lockdown imposed by the Federal Government as part of measures to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recall that the council had following the imposition of the lockdown in Lagos, which houses the nation’s two biggest seaports, the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex, both in Apapa has provided incentives and palliatives to stakeholders by providing free bus services at several locations in the state to the ports between the hours of 8am-5pm Monday – Friday.

Executive Secretary/CEO of the council, Hassan Bello, who spoke in Lagos, Friday, reminded the shipping companies that suspension of payment of demurrage and related charges are part of the incentives given to importers and exporters during the lockdown period by the Federal Government and warned that any firm flaunts the directive by imposing demurrage charges on shippers risk severe sanctions by the council.

According to him, in line with the presidential directive that port operations are essential services, the council has been monitoring activities to ensure that seaports run efficiently and smoothly within the present circumstances, and in compliance with the existing health and safety guidelines for the prevention and containment of the spread of COVID-19

“During the daily monitoring exercise, it was observed that some shippers, through no fault of theirs, are unable to take delivery of their cargo because of lack of public transportation, inadequate banking services and limited service providers due to reduced workforce, etc.

“Based on the forgoing, Nigerian Shippers’ Council has directed shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown with effect from 30th March 2020. This strictly applies to cargo that was discharged at the terminals from the 30th of March 2020

“To this end, demurrage charges during this period should be refunded to the consignee or his authorised agent. Suspension of demurrage during this period is an incentive for owners of cargo to accelerate the process of taking delivery of their cargo. This suspension of demurrage charges is not an excuse to delay or abandon cargo at the ports. Erring shippers will be sanctioned in addition to having to pay the demurrage due on their cargoes”, he said.

The NSC-boss, who advised cargo owners take full advantage of the period to take delivery of their consignments to forestall possible cargo build ups, also advised them to report any case of imposition of demurrage to the relevant unit of the council for appropriate sanctions.