May 21, 2024

Freight Forwarders Enraged Over Increase In Port Storage Charges

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Freight Forwarders Enraged Over Increase In Port Storage Charges

By Okezie Nnadi

…..accuses them of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians

With the dilemma in the renewal of their licenses by the Federal Government, (NPA) the Terminal Operators have contrived to hike storage charges by over 600 per cent. This singular act is spewing avoidable tension between the Terminal Operators, Shipping Companies and Freight Forwarders who see this increment as oppressive, obnoxious and draconian, while wondering why the Nigerian Shippers’Council would grant this without consulting widely.

Making this public, the Association of Concerned Freight Forwarders and Transporters, (ACFF&T) expressed their dismay over the approval granted terminal operators and shipping companies to increase storage charges by over 600 per cent, alleging that the new fees will ground port business.

Mr. Ndubuisi Uzoegbo, the Vice Chairman ACFF&T stated that this new development is a “harsh maltreatment” metted to the freight forwarding community and importers by shipping companies and terminal operators.” Even as he opined that the new fees are oppressive, draconian and unacceptable. According to him, this is not good for Nigerian Ports which are still grappling with diversion of cargoes to Neighbouring ports in Benin republic and Ghana. This action he viewed, could further down grade Nigerian Ports to play second fiddle.

“To put this in perspective, prior to October 15, 2023, storage charge for a full 40foot container for the first three days of arrival at the terminal is free after which the container would be charged a rate for every extra day it stays at the terminal. The storage payments are charged in periods of five days each.

The storage payment for the first period which would run from the 4th-8th day of the cargo’s arrival at the terminal for a 40 foot container was N2,226, second period charge from the 9th-13th day of arrival was N11,000 while the rate for the third period from the 14th day of arrival and beyond was N15,000.

A memo from a terminal operators, Five Star Logistics, to all agents and receivers dated September 2023, stated that the new rate with over 600 per cent increase will take effect from October 15, 2023.

The current rate are as follows: “Container Standard – Import Full first period- N5,670 for 20ft containers and N11,340 for 40ft containers from 4th to 8th day; N33,264 for 20ft containers and N66,528 for 40ft containers from 9th to 13th day while paying N53,550 for 20ft containers and N105,840 from the 14th day onwards.”

Uzoegbo while speaking with TodayNews at the weekend said, that the umbrella body for terminal operators, Shipping Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has denied stakeholders the right of reply on the proposed increment of fees by trying to force it down the throat of freight Agents without giving them any chance to contest this by warning them to pay or forfeit their consignments.

While stating that these actions smack total disrespect for customers, a misnomer and rude departure from standard business practice, and insult to freight forwarders and importers who are their customers.

He added that this arbitrary tariff hike by terminal operators is not commensurate with the services they render as they have failed in providing the basic facilities needed to expedite cargo clearance from the terminal and ports.

“Any decision taken in the maritime industry can affect the whole nation. What are they increasing for? Some of their staff are complaining, look at where we are conducting examination and so on, all the basic amenities we needed to work with have not been provided for us the customers. The customer is always a king in every business world.

“Let me use APMT for example, if they decide to make three billion naira in two days, all they need to do is to create artificial congestion and for one week, you will not be able to load one container out of this port. Then, multiply it by the number of containers that are leaving the port on daily basis, you will find out that these guys are rippers, they have been ripping us dry, the worst economic saboteurs in this country and the federal government must do something about them.”

Uzoegbo called on the Federal Government to revoke the licenses of terminal operators as they are making business unfavourable for stakeholders and by extension the Nigerian public. He asked that their individual performances should be taken into consideration before any thought of renewal of licenses.

Quoting him,
“They should leave Nigeria, they don’t add any economic value to Nigeria. They own no property in Nigeria and this money they are collecting from us, they will repatriate it back to their countries. If you like, show me their building, where have they invested in Nigeria. Look at our roads, they cannot come out and say let us give back to the society by making this road we are plying everyday to be motorable rather they are waiting for the President of Nigeria to come and do it for them while they are making billions of naira on daily basis.”

While also speaking, President, Association of Customs Brokers, Dr. Basil Nwolisa, maintained that they had been engaging with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council over this issue noting that the approval they allegedly granted the terminal operators for an upward review of the storage charges was given in error.

Giving his own view, the Secretary of the association, Sir Johnny Ubaka while reiterating that most of the delays witnessed at the port were caused by the terminal operators in order to extort by causing artificial bottlenecks.

As he explained,
“Sometimes, you will book for examination, they will not drop your containers for three days, who do we fight? You can even approach the white man and by the time you may not be able to clear your consignment in two weeks, you will be paying N105,000 a day. How much are you making per container per import?” He also kicked against the proposed 90,000 Circular on increase in storage charges.

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