The National Council of Managing Directors of Licenced Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) has appealed to the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards stopping additional shipping charges being levied by shipping companies on imported cargoes in the country.
The group stated that by the imposition of the charges called “the government and port taxes”, the shipping companies were violating the provision of the Convention of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Articles VIII 3(b).
The agents, through a petition addressed to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and signed by its national president, Mr Lucky Amiwero, claimed that the additional shipping charges were introduced through a circular dated October 28, 2016 by shipping companies to their customers which is now being implemented.
They claimed that the illegal “government & port taxes,” imposed additional N38,000 per container on any importer contrary to the provisions of the legislative instruments and the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by all the stakeholders.
According to the NCMDLCA members, the provision of the law authorises the carrier to hand over the goods to the consignee at the port of discharge without any cost, as all costs are embodied in the freight paid by the importer based on the law.
Amiwero expatiated: “Any other charges introduced by the shipping companies, contravenes the provision of the convention of WTO Articles VIII 3(b), the domestic laws and regulation, the practice constitutes very high percentage of charges that is not tied to service, which is a contributory factor to the high clearing cost that necessitate the diversion of Nigerian bound vessels to neighbouring West African ports.
“The shipping line is an agent to the carrier who are double agent in Nigeria, collecting from their principal-(carrier) and from the Nigeria importers, shipping line charges, without any operational cost like the provision of the following: Non-provision of terminal space, non -provision of equipment, non-provision of security and non-provision of staff.
“There is the need to stop the present increase and any other charge that is not tied to services in line the United Nations Convention on Carriage of Goods by sea (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2005, WTO Articles VIII and the various domestic laws and regulation in Nigeria.”
It would be recalled that the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) accused shipping companies and terminal operators recently of sabotaging the nation’s economy through illegal excessive charges which, they claimed, were increasing the the cost of doing business at the nation’s ports.
A past president of the association, Olayiwola Shittu, bemoaned the ugly development when the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman paid a courtesy visit to the group in Lagos.
He said: “There is also the sea protection levy that is also being charged by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). At the end these charges are transferred to the consumer, making life unbearable for them
“Shipping companies and terminal operators are reaping us off charging all manners of fees. They believe Nigeria is big and they can get all the monies they want from the country to service other West African region. We have it on good authority that what the shipping companies get from Nigeria is what they rely on for survival because of the next- to-nothing charges they get from other countries in Africa.
“Again, the demurrage they are charging in Nigeria; they don’t have the facility to support it, they are required to have holding bays they don’t have. It does not matter if the fault is theirs or not – you are still charged demurrage. Their charge is the cause of the high cost of doing business at the port and this is affecting the Nigerian economy”, Shittu lamented.
The association therefore appealed to the NPA boss to help in improving the lighting system at the nation’s ports to facilitate timely clearance of cargoes, especially at night.