Custom Agents Clamour for National Shipping Policy to Check Malpractices

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Eromosele Abiodun
Custom agents in the country have called on the federal government enact a new National Shipping Policy to match the prevailing realities in shipping businesses and end illegal and arbitrary charges by shipping companies.

In a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari, they warned that except a properly defined industry guidelines are issued with the aim to revise and reform business practices in the industry, the shipping industry will never guarantee freight fluidity, “rather it will remain a rip off to the Nigeria Shippers as it stands now.”

The agents in the petition signed by Head, Research and Policy, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said: “First is to begin by reminding Mr. President that, for many years, the businesses of the Nigeria Shippers together with critical transport service providers such as the freight forwarders have been frustrated by certain business practices employed by container shipping lines and terminal operators.

“In some instances, petitions are filed to the economic regulator for rule making, often the regulator appears to be overwhelmed by some other factors limiting their prompt regulatory functions.”
The agents also appealed to the government to constitute a fact finding team to undertake an inquiry into various inherent focused fact scenarios in the shipping and terminal operations.

“Such fact finding team will be charged to bring to your attention the real time problematic business practices inherent in our maritime industry and difficulties thereof, especially as it relates to the shipping and terminal operations. The shippers and forwarders strongly believe that, based on the supplementary information to be unravel by the inquiry team, that a further clarity to potential application of the interpretative rules to several businesses within the shipping- port value chain is apt.

“This is so because most of what presently represent Industry interpretative rules does not match the reality on ground. Most importantly such reviewed application will motivate parties to act reasonably and facilitate disputes resolution within industry saving time and cost. Here again, this is most cogent, as envisaged change in shipping application will help keep the supply chain fairly and efficient, which in our thoughts is paramount to your government,” they stated.

NAGAFF added that there is need to confirm the level of compliance to the earlier circular issued through the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), directing the terminal operators and shipping lines to wave storage and demurrage charges on shipments that falls within a stipulated period.

“A directives the shippers and forwarders applauded and termed it as “positive response and reasonableness of detention and demurrage charges during the early Covid-19 lock down. However, this directive was subtly thwarted and politicised. The applied haphazard implementation of this directive led to the trapping of so many containers in the ports, aiding the present congestion in our port.
“Mr. President, permit us to also inform here that, the economic developments in our maritime shipping indicated a decrease trends in global manufacturing during the Covid19 lockdown. Thereby causing changes in local economies, which in response, impacted negatively on buying pattern of the consumer,” they added.

The agents requested that the federal government direct the port economic regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to establish, within its purview, a Bureau of Trade
Analysis (BTA).

They noted: “The Bureau if empowered will traditionally relied on a combination of vessel operators to confidently provide data and information from commercially available industry data to monitor and analyse container carrier freight rates and service market trends.

“Finally, most countries are factoring economic policies towards guaranteeing food security, as this year witnessed many man-made draughts, courtesy of communal clashes, in which so many farmers lost their farm produce across states of the Federation, impacting on the nations agricultural products outputs.

“More farmers are presently rendered homeless thereby increasing the feeding provisions on the part of government. In addition, the rainfall this year has its own implications with regards to lesser harvest as opposed to bumper.”