FG Tackles Shipping Companies over Outrageous Surcharges

1
Hassan Bello

Eromosele Abiodun

The federal government has concluded arrangements to tackle shipping lines following the continued increase in surcharges on Nigeria bound cargo, particularly Peak Season Surcharge (PSS).

To this end, the nation’s port economic regulator, the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), has on behalf of the Nigerian government, written to the European Community Shippers Association (ECSA) describing the surcharges as economic sabotage.

The Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, in a letter seen by THISDAY, pointed out that the current surcharge for year 2020 was 100 per cent higher than it was in 2018.

He stressed that the various trade routes to Nigeria, unlike other countries in the sub-region, have not only an exorbitant rate structure but the highest number of multiple surcharges in the seaborne freight.

THISDAY checks revealed that one of the shipping lines, Hapag-Lloyd, had recently introduced PSS on all containers coming through Apapa and Tin Can Island ports.

Freight forwarders told THISDAY that the surcharge is $1,025 for 20 and 40ft containers coming from the United States, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and $1,025 or EUR 930 for containers coming from other countries.
Bello, in the strongly worded letter, stressed that Nigeria cannot afford the frequent increases in surcharges adding that the country will protest against it.

He described the surcharges as insensitive and discriminatory since such surcharges are not imposed on shippers in other neighbouring countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic.

He added that it was wrong to have introduced such surcharges at a time the economy is just trying to recover from the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that already the Council has written a letter to the Shipping Lines Association in Nigeria to protest against the surcharges.

THISDAY learnt that notable freight forwarders associations were planning on how to mobilise members to protest the surcharges by the shipping lines.

The NSC had last year identified about eight surcharges being imposed on shippers in Nigeria and other neighbouring countries with negative impact on the economies.

The surcharges include:PSS; extra risk insurance (ERI)/carrier security fee (CSF) surcharge; congestion surcharge (CS); freight tax surcharge (FTS); operations cost recovery (OCR); low sulphur surcharge (LSS); Bunker adjustment surcharge(B.A.F) and C.A.F. (currency adjustment surcharge).

Participants from 16 countries, who attended a conference organised by the NSC in collaboration with the Union of African Shippers Council Councils and Global Shippers Forum (GSF) in August last year in Abuja, had condemned the surcharges and high local shipping charges by international shipping lines.

The 16 countries said they cannot afford to fold their hands while foreign shipowners and their agents continue to rip-off shippers through arbitrary charges.

Part of the consensus agreement was to take up the matter with foreign shipowners at a meeting of GSF, which held London in September.

In the words of Bello, who was the Chairman of a Standing Committee on Trade and Transport during the meeting, African countries must check the excesses of the shipowners and their agents.

Speaking on the arbitrary increase in charges and introduction of new nomenclatures by shipping lines, Bello said member states should insist that shippers must be consulted before new charges are imposed on them.
He also said shippers must take time to study and ask questions on the component of the charges being presented to them and agree on their justification before payment is made.

He enjoined shippers’ councils in the sub-region to resort to legislation as suggested by the Secretary General of GSF, Mr. James Hookham, if the foreign ship owners continue to impose such charges without negotiation.