Worried by the hues and cries generated by a recent notice given by CMA CGM to relevant stakeholders of its plan to impose the controversial $400 congestion surcharge on every container coming into the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports Complex, both in Apapa, the Nigerian Shippers Council, the nation’s port economic regulator has summoned a meeting of all shipping companies operating in the country.

Meanwhile, importers and exporters under the aegis of Shippers Association Lagos State, yesterday, took a swipe at CMA CGM over the planned introduction of new arbitrary charge, describing it as height of economic sabotage against the Nigerian nation and therefore charged all stakeholders to resist the mindless imposition.

According to a statement by the Director of the council in charge of Special Duties, Ignatius Nweke, the meeting holds Monday, October 15 and it is mandatory for all shipping agencies operating in the country.

President of the association, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, who also reacted to the new development in an interview, described it as arbitrary, unfair and indeed lacking any economic sense since the purported congestion was not caused by importers and exporters.

He however noted that the shippers are of the view that the gridlock in Apapa caused by trucks laden with empty containers littered all over the city of Lagos, which also constitute security risks to life and property should be viewed more seriously by the NSC being the Port Economic Regulator and the Nigerian Ports Authority.

“The menace of the empty containers loaded on trucks, which queue on the Lagos highways and suburbs have not only become a nuisance but also posed a terrible security risk to residents of the affected areas.

“These empty containers belong to the shipping lines which normally collect container deposits on their boxes in transit. On prompt return of the empty containers, the importer can claim back his deposit.  It is a known fact that empty containers do not have access to the ports with ease as before and this is a riddle”, he said.

While admitting that the port access roads are currently in a state of disrepair, he argued that trucks have access into the ports through the LPC, TCIP main gates or the Port Terminal Multi-Services Limited PTML regularly.

He further noted that no fewer than 800 containers are cleared daily from the various ports in Lagos, wondering why trucks laden with empty containers would not access the ports, as most of them deliberately remain on the roads so that they are not returned to other foreign seaports, where they are under strict obligation to pay for the spaces occupied by their empty containers.

“Why should the importer pay additional fee to offload the property of the shipping company in their premises again when all charges have been paid in advance? Congestion surcharge should be passed on to the shipping lines and their agents, the terminal operators, who receive the empty containers on behalf of their client -the shipping companies, from where the empty container is exported back. It is believed that at least 1,000 empty containers should be exported daily since over 800 fully loaded containers are delivered to various consignees daily. Shippers’ Association Lagos State is worried and does not want to press charges on all the port regulators, but these questions are begging for answers.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investments owe Nigerians explanations why container business should be reducing the lifespan of the citizens due to the perennial gridlocks. “It is indeed unfortunate that there is deliberate policy summersault by the government making private service provider operate under any known regulatory framework”.

“Shippers Association Lagos State will partner other stakeholders to press for damages to our collective business downturn, destruction of infrastructure and demand compensation for those who lost their lives in the struggle to deliver empty containers to their rightful owners and also hold the port regulators responsible for their inability to induce sanity in the dispensation of their statutory duties” he also said emphatically.