Nigerian manufacturers and importers are literally up in arms against foreign shipping lines at the seaports as importers are raging over the surcharge on cargoes which they consider prohibitive.
The surcharge, according to them, is adding to the high cost of doing business in the ports, coupled with the challenges of infrastructure deficiency and cumbersome shipping process. Already, Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) said it has rolled up its sleeve to combat shippers.
The importers pointed to one of the foreign shipping firms – Hapag-Lloyd – which in the last nine months has imposed a revised Peak Season Surcharge (PSS) on Tin Can Island and Apapa ports in Lagos.
Hapag-Lloyd imposed the PSS on containers from across the world to Tin Can Island and Apapa ports.
Documents showed that $1025 surcharge is slammed on 20 feet (ft) and 40ft containers on cargoes coming from the United States and its territories, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Charges from cargoes from the rest of the world are also pegged at $1025 or 930Euros accordingly.
The charges are not the same as the ocean tariff rates as well as terminal handling charges, bunker-related surcharges, security-related surcharges, and others that increase the cost of shipping.
Having started the charges from December 15, 2019, Hapag Lloyd, according to its notice is imposing the surcharge till further notice.
Critical industries in the country are already groaning under the new charges, lamenting that the high prices are affecting its profits, which has already been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hassan Bello, NSC executive secretary/chief executive officer, described the charges as economic sabotage, saying the Council is moving against the action of the shipping firms.
Bello said: “We are protesting against it vehemently. There was no notice to us and the shippers that the charge was imminent.
sitive for anybody to slam such charges of over $1,000 on Nigeria’s trade.
“It is discriminatory because it is not happening in Togo, Benin or Ghana, why should it be in Nigeria? We have written a strong letter to the shipping association of Nigeria and we also wrote to their principals overseas, because this is not a local charge.
“Why should Nigeria be the recovery ground for shipping companies? We have three lines of action on the internal level – we are going to call on the Union of Africa’s Shippers’ Council; Global Shippers’ Association and Global Shippers Forum.
‘’On the national level, we are rallying round the organised private sector, I am already in talks with Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), I will talk to Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), as well as big time shippers like Dangote and Nigerian Breweries among others.
“We should all come together and fight against this unnecessary charges. The charges are unilateral and arbitral and we are going to protest against it because it is economic sabotage. It goes deep into Nigeria’s economy recovery. It is against our resolve to recover from the effect of COVID-19.”
Chairman, Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nichol bemoaned the shipping costs, expressing the group’s readiness to take it up with appropriate agencies.
Nichol said the surcharge could be linked to congestion at Lagos ports, but it is uncalled for, considering the negative effect of COVID-19, “we will certainly induce discussions on this with the Shippers Council”. He stressed the need to review the costs of shipping in Nigeria, noting that “importers hardly make profit” due to excessive charges.
President, Importers Association of Nigeria, Kingsley Chikezie said the importers are not happy about the additional charges from the shipping firm, even at a time they were complaining about the high cost of shipping at the ports.
Chikezie said a lot of things are happening at the ports including the issue of transfer charges among others, appealing to the authorities to ensure urgent review of the charges.
However, some industrialists who were severely affected by the surcharge burden have urged the Federal Government to institute litigation against the erring shipping firm for operating against the rule of trade facilitation agenda of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) during the pandemic period.