The federal government and the organised private sector (OPS) have unanimously agreed to battle multinational shipping firms over the indiscriminate charges slammed on Nigerian-bound cargoes with particular reference to Peak Season Surcharge (PSS).
THISDAY learnt that the six companies involved are Cosco, Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Evergreen Shipping.
Led by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), the industrialists under the aegis of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and major stakeholders in the shipping community, met yesterday in Lagos to form a common front to resist what they described as the arbitrary charges.
This follows a letter written to the European Community Shippers Association (ECSA) by the NSC on behalf of the Nigerian government, describing the surcharges as economic sabotage.
The 2020 peak period charges of between $1,000 and $1,500 per 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) by shipping firms is over 400 per cent increase from the previous $200 freight charge per TEU during peak period.
Speaking at the meeting, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, described the charges as scary, adding that if a Nigeria-bound container is charged as much as $1,000, the national economy is in trouble.
He expressed worry that the surcharge was introduced at a time when the nation was trying to get out of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The surcharge, Bello said, would lead to spiral inflation rate on the economy as “cargoes will be abandoned at the ports; it means job losses and many shippers will be put off business.”
The charges, he added, are “astronomic, unjustified, not notified and discriminatory. This is against fair trade facilitation rules.”
Bello said the NSC had written to the erring firms and was waiting for responses.
He said: “We have also written to Ministry of Transportation to escalate it to the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the federal government will protest the charges.
“We have been having surcharge in the range of $200 to $400, but 400 per cent increase and there was no time limit. It’s already going to nine months; it is not what any economy can cope with. This can cripple the economy.”
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, expressed disappointment at the charges, saying that it might result in more cargoes being abandoned at the ports.
Represented by the General Manager, Tariff and Billings, Mr. Abubakar Umar, she said: “If the importers are charged so high and they abandoned them in the ports, NPA will lose revenue and it would reduce efficiency and turnaround of ships to Nigerian ports.”
Director General of LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said the industries would resist the charges because “this is not the best of time for businesses generally.”
President of MAN, Mr. Mansur Ahmed, said MAN would not accept the surcharge because it came at a time when manufacturers are working with less staff, less raw material and lower profit.
Represented by Mr. Olufemi Immanuel, Ahmed said: “The price of goods will skyrocket and the cost of transports will be unbearable.”
Representative of NACCIMA, Ms. Margaret Orakwusi, said the surcharge would affect commerce negatively.
“Our members borrowed huge money to import items and they are slammed this huge amount, then it would affect the banks too,” she said.
Large-scale importers such as Dangote Group and Promasidor bemoaned the arbitrary charges by shipping companies, expressing readiness to protest the surcharge
Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Kayode Farinto, urged collaboration with ECOWAS against the arbitrary charges.
“It will affect our economy seriously because Nigeria is an import-dependent economy,” he said.
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said the peak season surcharge is unacceptable, adding that COVID-19 does not give room for acceptability of such charges.