By Godwin Oritse
THE Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, yesterday commenced moves to stop the payment of container deposit fee by importers, which are usually not refunded by shipping companies.
Executive Secretary of the Council Mr. Hassan Bello disclosed this at a meeting with three shipping firms in Lagos, adding that complaints about container deposit fee constitute about 80 percent of complaint received by the Council
Bello explained that the agency is trying to de-emphasize the payment of the fee as the quite a number of importers have lost monies through non-refund of the fee adding that if care was not taken in the management of this issue, it could run some importers out of business.
Bello also disclosed that the Council has concluded plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU port charges adding that the MOU will have a far reaching impact on shipping.
The agreement, according to him is a highly sustainable mechanism in resolving disputes adding that if parties are able to conclude, it will have a positive impact on the industry.
He said “We rather you do not collect container deposit fee as it constitutes 80 percent of complaints received by the Nigerian Shippers Council.
“Shippers are reported to have complained that the container deposit fee refund regime is harsh, sometimes through no fault of the shippers.
“The whole idea of the engagement is to create a balance in the course of doing business in the nation’s ports.
“If you stifle the shipper, you will run him out of business, the Council wants a situation whereby you charge according to services rendered.
“The return of container deposit takes a lot of time and most times importers forego these deposits
“We want to ensure that shipping companies and terminal operators and other operators key into the government initiative of the Ease of Doing Business in the ports so that we can have very good rating by the World Bank and therefore attract investors to Nigeria.
“First of all we think there should not be any payment of container deposit in the first place, that is what we are going to work on, to abolish it.
“ We have to look at the whole container regime and issue specific regulation so that it will be at par with international best practice.”
Responding, the Managing Director of Grimaldi Shipping line, operators of the Port Multi-Purpose Terminal Limited, PTML, Mr. Ascanio Russo said that Grimaldi and some shipping firms refund container deposit within three or four days of the return of their containers.
Russo also said that about 70 percent of his client do not pay container deposit fee because they have proven to be credible.
Representative of the Managing Director of Mearsk Line Shipping company, Mr. Rasak Ngula said that it’s payment of container deposit refund is a smooth process adding that 96 percent of its customers’ request are treated online.