MAERSK Line has succumbed to pressure and has instructed its commercial department to halt the collection of the controversial Peak Season Surcharge imposed on all consignments meant for most West African seaports including Nigeria. The halting of the illegal levy takes effect from September 1, 2020.

This is in response to protests by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Commercial Regulator in Nigeria, which recently convened a meeting of the Organised Private Sector OPS to deliberate on the astronomical Peak Season Surcharge imposed by shipping lines calling in Nigeria.

Also recall that the Union of African Shippers’ Council UASC, subsequently backed Shippers’ Council calls for immediate suspension of the arbitrary imposition of the surcharge, describing it as a violation of previous UASC/European Community Shipowners Association ECSA agreement requiring prior, mutual and reasonable notification of UASC and Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa PMAWCA by individual shipping companies before any such imposition of new tariff, surcharges or increase in transport cost.

Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria, Lara Lana in letter addressed to the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, stated that “our principals in our Head Office have informed us of your letter with subject reference increase in Peak Season Surcharge”.

The letter further stated that: “We would like to thank you for the supporting document you shared shedding light on the meeting between the ECSA and UASC”.

The UASC had penultimate week, made a strong case for the immediate suspension of the surcharge imposed by multinational shipping lines serving the West African trade route.

This call was sequel to a letter by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council dated August 16, 2020, addressed to the ECSA and copied to the UASC among others, in which it complained about the outrageous increase in surcharges with particular reference to Peak Season Surcharge, levied on Nigeria bound cargo.

The UASC in a recent letter signed by its Secretary-General Ogoula Giscard Lilian, strongly condemned the ‘unilateral and offensive action by ECSA carriers in utter  disrespect of previous agreement and expectations’,  stating that the action destabilises the business operations of its members ‘through the increasing of transport costs and weakening of the economies of UASC member-states especially during this outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic which has kept commercial activity at its lowest in terms of activity and prosperity’.

According to the letter: “The implementation of this unilateral decision on the part of ECSA is in violation of previous UASC/ECSA agreements requiring prior, mutual and reasonable notification of UASC and PMAWCA by individual shipping companies before any such imposition of new tariffs, surcharge or increase in transport cost”.

The letter also cited the report of the UASC/ECSA meeting held on 16 July 2010 and a Joint Declaration between UASC and ECSA signed in Brussels on 12 April 2012.

On the way forward, UASC then called on ECSA to kindly respect previous agreements and recommendations on this matter, immediately suspend the implementation of the Peak Season Surcharge until discussions on the new surcharges take place.

Other recommendations by the UASC on the matter include that the ECSA should take necessary measures to improve on the general transparency and facilitation of trade relation with UASC’s members, among others.