Freight Forwarders Blame Govt, Firms for High Port Charges

National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, other wise called Nagaff, has blamed the Nigerian government and some  agencies in the ministry of transport for the high cost of goods in the country.

Particularly, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Nimasa) are both accused of going against what is stipulated in the concession agreement government entered into with terminal operators, who have for long subjected importers, their freight agents and Nigerians to untold hardships.

Saying that shipping services and charges have been their dilemma, freight forwarders in Nigeria, speaking under the aegis of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (Nagaff), pointed out that the legitimacy and relevance of the collection of shipping line agency fee by shipping companies operating in Nigeria, without recourse to the components of ocean freight paid by the importer at the port of origin is a bitter pill they are made to swallow.

Interestingly, reacting to Senator Idris Umar, minister of transport, mid-term briefing recently held in the conference hall of Radio House, Abuja, Eugene Nweke, president, Nagaff, reasoned that the minister did not address the many contentious issues in relation to arbitrary port-shipping services and charges. Nweke who spoke the mind of a cross section of freight forwarders in the sector asked Umar to explain to Nigerians the “relevance and legitimacy for the collection of Terminal Handling Charges (THC), with respect to the definitions and services that constitute Terminal Delivery Charges as contained in appendix one of the concession agreement, with the subheading ‘Maximum Tariffs for the cargo dues and Delivery charges of containers”.

He also asked him to explain the relevance and legitimacy for the continuous collection of transfer charges, with respect to the contract of affreightment (under the carriage of goods by sea, Marine Insurance Act of 1906 as domesticated in 2005). Where a port of destination has been contracted and stated on the bill of lading, yet upon the berthing of the vessel, the said consignment is transferred to an outer terminal at the convenience of the terminal operator under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the shipping line.

Nweke said the duplication of charges without cost function such as documentation charges, handling charges, positioning of containers for customs examination, concessionaires handling charges and royalty charge paid to NPA adds up the cost of goods in the market “as importers pass the cost down to the final consumers”, he pointed out.

Nweke said: “The latest is the implementation of Environmental Protection Levy (EPL) by Nimasa; the billing process by shipping lines in relation to container deposits and practice of up-front rating of additional period of 14 days; the practice of effecting reductions from container deposits on a flimsy excuse of container stains, without the agent witnessing remarks as at the point of container loading; the provision or absence of empty container withholding bay; the associated delays in dropping the container after delivery to the importer and the deduction of such delays occasioned by inefficiency on the part of the shipping line from the deposits. All these practices promote arbitrary clearing cost in our ports.

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