Customs Agents Seek FG’s Intervention on Congestion Surcharge


Eromosele Abiodun

Customs agents in the country have called on the federal government to compel shipping companies to waive the rent, demurrage and terminal charges, due to the National strike embarked on by Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and general Lockout by the Terminal / Shipping companies as a result of the strike.

In a petition addressed to President Muhadadu Buhari, the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) said waiver should be granted on goods that are held up in the ports which the importer/licensed customs agents cannot gain access to take delivery of as a result of strikes by NLC and lockout by shipping companies/terminal operators.

This is just as the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has threatened to sanction CMA CGM over the unilateral imposition of 400 dollars on shipments to two ports of Lagos, and any other international shipping line that may introduce arbitrary charges at ports.

NPA and leadership of association of clearing agents, through press statements issued condemned the $400 congestion surcharge the international shipping line slammed on every container coming to TinCan Island and Apapa ports.

The agent in the petition signed by the National President of NCMDLCA, Mr Lucky Amiwero added that the strike and lockouts are rights provided in the Trade Dispute Act, the contract of carriage Clause, which allow for waiver of demurrage and rent by terminals/shipping companies, when delivery of goods cannot be obtained by the icensed customs agents as a result of strike and lockout.

CMA CGM had in an email sent to importers and clearing agents announced that cargoes from any part of the world on (EMA CGM ships will attract extra “$400/EUR 850 per 20′ Dry and Reefer and $400/EUR350 per 40′ Dry and Reefer”.
The shipping line based its action on what it called disruption of its activities based on congestion in the two Lagos ports.

In the mail the company explained that: “port congestion at Lagos ports, Nigeria, is currently increasing our operational costs and generating severe service disruption for several weeks.”

The mail added that: “CMA CGM will therefore implement the following Emergency Congestion Surcharge on Lagos import cargo, effective October 15th, 2018 (B/ L date) for FMC trades

The company also indicated that the surcharge is payable on categories of cargoes including dry and break bulk.

In reaction to the proposed charge, NPA, through a press statement by the Acting General-Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr Isa Suwaid said the new charges cannot stand following the authority’s checks, which revealed that some of the shipping companies have failed to fully comply with the directive to acquire and operate holding bays as they have either failed to utilise their holding bays at all or do not have adequate capacity to handle the volume of containers that they deal with.

The NPA noted that some of the companies had also been found to import a larger number of containers than empty containers exported thereby making the country a dumping ground for empties.

According to the NPA, “These conducts have contributed to the persistent congestion around the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Port, spreading to other parts of the Lagos metropolis where truck drivers with no immediate business at the ports now park their trucks.

“As from tomorrow (today), the authority will review the level of compliance to its directives and determine further actions in addition to this, the NPA will henceforth embark on a regular compliance check of the operations of holding bays by shipping companies and terminal operators and defaulters will be sanctioned.”