Excessive charges: We recovered over N80m for consignees in six months-NSC
Executive Secretary/CEO NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The Nigerian Shippers Council, the country’s seaport economic regulator has assured operators in the industry that it will continue to ensure a level playing field for all stakeholders, saying it has recovered well over N80million for importers and exporters from the various regulated service providers in less than six months covering the period between January and June, 2018.
These recoveries arise from imposition of excessive and arbitrary charges on port services, demurrage and other rent related charges from regulated service providers, especially shipping companies and terminal operators.
Deputy Director in charge of Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement Unit of the council, Chief Cajethan Agu, who made this disclosure, spoke while delivering a paper entitled: “The Role of the Nigerian Shippers Council as an Interventionist Agency in the Maritime Industry” at a one-day seminar for maritime journalists organised by the council in Lagos, Friday.
While going down the memory lane, the deputy director noted that both in its capacity and traditional function of protecting the cargo interest of Nigerian shippers (importers and exporters) and as an economic regulator, the council has remained an interventionist agency for the industry, having carried out series of interventionist programmes for the industry.
According to him, as a port regulator, the mandate of the council includes but not limited to setting guided tariff regimes as well as ensuring that such tariff regimes were adhered strictly to through its monitoring compliance and enforcement mechanisms, which has led to the recovery of over N80million in less than six months.
It was however gathered that part of these recoveries include compelling Gulf Agency Shipping Nigeria Limited to release about 30 containers belonging to Nestle Nigeria plc over a controversial N37 million allegedly accruing to it from demurrage charges.
This was sequel to a petition by JOF Nigeria Limited, a logistics company that clears consignments belonging to Nestle plc to the council that GAC had refused to release its containers since the goods arrived the country more than three months after the country, as the shipping agent had insisted on not releasing the containers until the money was paid.
The council had also intervened in a similar case of overbilling on demurrage charges brought before it by Sunflag Steel Limited against Cosco Shipping Company, leading to the recovery of $23,000.
The council had also penultimate week compelled Cosco Shipping (Nigeria) Agency Limited to refund a total of N3.5million demurrage charge illegally imposed on Sunflag Nigeria Ltd, which the steel firm disputed and subsequently petitioned the council for its intervention, among several other cases.
Chief Agu also disclosed that the council’s modus operandi in such cases is to carry out its thorough and independent investigations on the issues on receipt of such petitions or complaints and call for a tripartite meeting of the parties, who would be asked to come along with relevant documents.
“We always urge all stakeholders to play the game by the rules as there are several sanctions against erring operators, which range from private and public warnings, sealing up of premises after repeated warnings and blacklisting in extreme cases”, he said.
He assured that the council will continue promote equity and fairness in its regulatory and interventionist functions, which he said will promote a virile and robust maritime industry in the overall interest of the national economy.