Maersk Bows to Pressure, Suspends Controversial Surcharge on Cargoes

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Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello

Eromosele Abiodun

Following protests by the federal government and the organised private sector over the indiscriminate charges slammed on Nigerian-bound cargoes, multinational shipping firm, Maersk Line, has suspended the penalty.

In a letter addressed to the Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, which was signed by the Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria, Lara Lana, the company instructed its commercial department to stop applying the Peak Season Surcharge (PSS) from today.

MAERSK in the letter stated that “our principals in our head office have informed us of your letter with subject reference increase in peak season surcharge.
“We would like to thank you for the supporting document you shared, shedding light on the meeting between the ECSA and UASC.”

However, other major shipping firms such as Cosco, MSC, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Evergreen shipping are yet to announce their decision on the matter.

Led by the NSC, the OPS, under the aegis of the 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, had met in Lagos recently to form a common front to resist the arbitrary charges.

This followed 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 Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC), subsequently backed NSC’s calls for the immediate suspension of the surcharge, calling it a violation of previous UASC/European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) agreement.

The 2020 peak period charges of between $1,000 and $1,500 per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) by shipping firms, is over 400 per cent increase from the previous $200 freight charge per TEU during peak period.
Bello, at the meeting with the OPS, had said the charges were 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 charges, Bello stated, would lead to a spiral inflation rate on the economy, adding that “cargoes will be abandoned at the ports. It means job losses and many shippers will be put out of business.”
The charges, he said, were “astronomic, unjustified, not notified and discriminatory. This is against fair trade facilitation rules.”