By Godfrey Bivbere
NIGERIAN Ports Authority, NPA, has empowered port managers to sanction shipping companies that are unwilling to return empty containers, as well as stop collection of illegal money for depositing empty containers at their holding bays.
Vanguard Maritime Report learnt that most of the shipping companies are still collecting toll of between N5,000 and N10,000 from importers and truck drivers to be allowed to drop their empty containers.
Delay in the return of containers result in the loss of container deposit fee deposited by importers before taking delivery of their consignments. Importers are forced to deposit N100,000 and N200,000 respectively for 20 foot and 40 foot containers.
A source in one of the nation’s ports told Vanguard Maritime Report that the gridlock around the ports in Lagos are man-made which is why the Managing Director of NPA has empowered the port managers to sanction any shipping company that acts against the smooth transfer of empty containers.
The source told Vanguard Maritime Report that the NPA management is unhappy with the huge amount paid annually by importers, stressing that the management is determined to end what it sees as exploitation.
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report, Assistant General Manager, AGM in charge of NPA’s public affairs, Ibrahim Nasiru, said he was not aware of any such collection but assured that NPA will engage the shipping companies and stop it if it is true.
He said: “If any shipping company does not comply, they will be sanctioned. It is not as if the managing director gave port managers power, it is a general thing that they have to comply with the directive. The sanction will come into play when the e-call up system commences. The shipping companies will be responsible for taking their empty containers to their holding bays.
“The situation where you see trucks lining the road saying they are returning empty containers is not acceptable. It is only when you are called upon that you can come into the port to pick up your container. On returning the empty, the truck driver is expected to return the empty to the various holding bays of the shipping companies.
“It is the responsibility of the shipping company to carry the empty from the holding bay to the port.
If any shipping company does not comply with the above, then such a company will be sanctioned.
The shipping companies are not supposed to collect money from importers and truckers because in the first place they are supposed to provide holding bays were empty containers are to be delivered.
“Why should they charge extra money, which is why shipping cost is high and NPA is looking for ways to lower the cost of shipping in the country. NPA is talking to the shipping companies to apply the law but I do not know about the charges and two they are not supposed to collect it.
We will not say what the sanction will be, let them go against the law first then we will apply the law.”
Statistics provided by the NPA shows that 192,164 Twenty Equivalent Units, TEUs of containers were handled at the nation’s ports in the first quarter of 2019. NPA also gave the figure of container throughput for 2017 and 2018 as 667,826 and 808,516 TEUs respectively.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, had earlier said that importers were annually subjected to payment of N1.7 billion as container deposit fee to foreign shipping companies.
The NSC boss said that the Council will work at stopping the payment of container deposit before the end of the first quarter of this year.
According to the NSC boss, “every shipper pays N120,000 each as container deposit fee to foreign shipping companies, cumulating at N1.7 billion every year for container deposit.
This is adding to the cost of doing business in our ports and is not the fault of the importer since he cannot return the container within the specified time because the roads are clogged, and the holding bays are not working; so why must the importer pay for these failures?
“We want indemnity system and we have already spoken with NAICOM (National Insurance Commission) to bring insurance penetration into our port system.”