Demurrage: Freight forwarders, APM Terminals reach truce
Freight forwarders and allied stakeholders took to the streets on Friday in Apapa to protest what they described as highhandedness, inefficiency and imposition of arbitrary charges by APM Apapa Terminals, the concessionaire in charge of Nigeria’s Container Terminal.
The freight forwarders in their hundreds led by the Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF stormed the APM Terminal office located within the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa, bearing placards and chanting solidarity songs.
Secretary of the NAGAFF Compliance Team, Evang. Clement Iwegbuna, who spoke to the media, noted that the company was in the habit of making freight forwarders incur unnecessary and avoidable demurrage and other rent-related charges.
According to him, more often than not, the freight forwarder makes payment in respect of the examination of his consignment and officially requests for examination of his consignment only for the APM Terminal, having collected the money would fail to positon the container for several days while the demurrage keep accumulates.
He said: “It is a case of double jeopardy for the freight forwarder, who pays the statutory fees for the examination of his consignment, officially makes requisition for the examination using the receipt as statutorily required and several days after, the same organisation that failed to position the consignment continues to charge demurrage. This is no longer acceptable.
“There are several other anomalies arising from imposition of all manner of charges on consignments, which we have been complaining about but today, we have decided to take our destiny in our hands because we have seen that several years of complaint could not yield us any dividend as these extortions have gone unabated.
“This is not good for Nigeria’s economy, because many freight forwarders divert their consignments to neighbouring seaports, additionally, the arbitrary charges are passed to the final consumers of the goods and this partly contributes to the galloping inflationary trends experienced in the country, which have whittled the value of the naira against other foreign currencies, especially the dollar.”
The secretary, who later addressed the protesting freight forwarders shortly after a brief meeting with the management of the company, disclosed that the company has agreed to come to the negotiating table with the leadership of the association.
He also enjoined the freight forwarders to retire back to their offices pending further directive, which would be determined by the outcome of the negotiations.
It was however gathered that some of the agreements reached in the interim by both parties is that henceforth, the number of containers to be positioned for examination be increased from 100 to 180 per day including weekends
Secondly, it was agreed that excess charges with proof of payment must be refunded, while extra charges imposed for missed positioning of containers due to the terminal operator’s negligence should be discontinued.
The terminal operator is also to make a written undertaking that the above agreements would take effect from June 14, 2021.
Recall that the management of APM Terminals had over the years lamented the increasing cases of positioning of containers for physical examination, many of which are not examined at the end of the day, which are returned to the block stack at additional cost.
Stakeholders however believe that the only solution to the problem is the provision of scanners at the seaports in Nigeria, which is the globally accepted standard, insisting that the current 100 per cent physical examination of cargo practiced by the Nigeria Customs Service is obsolete and time consuming, since it takes several hours to un-stuff for physical examination while it takes only four minutes with the scanners.