By Seun Ibiyemi
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has again shown concerns over surcharges by international shipowners on cargoes coming into the country.
Executive Secretary of the Council, Mr Hassan Bello, who expressed this concern in Lagos last week said the ports economic regulator has as a result decided to hold an international forum to tackle the issue.
Bello explained that this was in view of the adverse effect such illegal surcharges were having on the cost of doing business in the country.
He said that what is worrisome is that in most cases Nigeria is not adequately informed of such surcharges before they are imposed on shippers.
The NSC CEO disclosed that the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and six African countries have been invited to discuss the issue.
He indicated that the idea is for the GSF members and other African countries who are members of the African Shippers Council (ASF) and also members of the GSF to come together and discuss the extra-costs being imposed on shippers.
According to him, during the meeting, members of the GSF of which Nigeria is a member will look at the various surcharges and the negative impacts of the costs on Nigerian shippers.
It is envisaged that after the meeting the GSF is expected to take up the matter with all the liner conferences from different continents to end such surcharges.
It is expected that the action will end such discrete surcharges which Bello described as unjust.
Most of the surcharges are built into the freight costs in Nigeria from parent companies of shipping companies who are members of different liner conferences of shipowners.
The Council is particularly worried that the shipping agencies often ignore to suspend the surcharges even with the knowledge that the situation which justified their imposition has changed.
It would be recalled that the Director of Special Duties of the Council, Mr Idris Tahir had earlier said, “it seems to be permanently being deployed as it is mostly built into the freight cost from parent companies”.
He explained that the surcharges are fees collected by shipping companies in addition to freight rate prevailing in Nigerian seaports.
He explained, “There are about eight or more surcharges imposed on Nigerian ports. The UNCTAD provisions in its Article 16 of the code stipulates that surcharges imposed on cargo moving to and from a particular port shall be regarded as temporary and likewise shall be increased, reduced or cancelled subject to when the situation in the port changes.
“But what we have observed is that, we hardly witness a total suspension of these surcharges as was intended to be a temporary measure, designed to bring equity in the recovery of some unexpected costs increases or losses. It seems to be permanently being deployed as it is mostly built into the freight cost from parent companies”.