How shipping firms, terminal operators frustrate trade in Nigeria-NAGAFF
BY FRANCIS EZEM
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF, yesterday took a swipe at some multinational shipping companies and their agencies as well as port concessionaires operating in Nigeria over their anti-trade practices, through which individual stakeholders, firms and even the Federal Government have lost huge sums of money, a development the group said has reached its climax.
Chairman of Kirikiri Lighter Terminal chapter of the association, Engr. Emmanuel Umeadi, who raised fresh concerns, accused these firms of deliberately stifling import and export business in the country through their anti-trade practices and therefore urged the Federal Government to rise to the occasion by investigating and imposing severe sanctions.
He listed the affected shipping companies to include Maersk Line, Pacific International Line PIL, AP Moller Terminal APMT, the terminal operator in charge of former Container Terminal and Cosco Shipping Line.
According to him, these shipping companies and terminal operator do not have empty container holding bays, which he said frustrates shipping and other related activities in the country, while also accusing them of always imposing exorbitant charges on port service users.
“Shipping companies like PIL, Maersk Line, APMT and COSCO Shipping collect exorbitant charges yet they do nothing to facilitate trade in the country. However, in China and other countries in the world, they don’t operate this way. These companies are defrauding importers, freight forwarders and the Nigerian government” he told journalists.
Speaking further, he said; “They demand the return of empty containers and turn around to use the trucks as their holding bays for weeks. For instance, as the chairman of KLT NAGAFF Chapter, I also ship containers abroad but sometimes they allege that I owe these shipping companies as much as N2million. After doing my investigation, they tell me that I didn’t return three or four containers in due time, hence they accumulated demurrage to the tune of N2million”
He called on regulatory agencies such as the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA and Nigerian Shippers’ Council NSC to investigate these nefarious activities of these shipping companies with a view to checkmating them.
Recall that NPA recently sanctioned some shipping companies including Maersk Line. Shippers Council has also in the last two moths shut Cosco premises in Apapa for more than two times for imposing arbitrary container deposit charges on Nestle and Sun Flag, an iron rod importing company. Umeadi, while commending both agencies, charged them to apply more severe sanctions to serve as a deterrent to others that might want indulge in such fraudulent trade practices.
He frowned at the practice were shipping companies direct freight forwarders to move empty containers to TICT but at TICT, NPA officials would ask the truckers to move the containers to the holding bays of the shipping companies.
“The truth is that it is not the duty of NPA to provide these facilities. The shipping companies should have functional empty container holding bays. The traffic situation on the Lagos port access roads has degenerated to such pitiable state because of the absence of holding bays. Containers fall on the road because of this challenge and the nation is in chaos because these shipping companies do not adhere to government’s regulations on the establishment of holding bays” he said.
He also lamented that some of these shipping companies, especially Maersk Line like to intimidate freight forwarders with the connivance of some officers of the Nigeria Police, noting that this trend wasn’t encouraging or facilitating business in Nigeria especially freight forwarding business.
“As far as I’m concerned these activities by multinational shipping companies are sabotaging economic activities in the country. When you find importers who were bringing in 10-15 containers few years ago now struggle to bring in five or less containers and so you know that there is a problem in the country. It means less revenue for government by way of Customs revenue. It is also important to note that this problem would eventually trickle down to the ordinary Nigerian who consumes the imported goods” he added.