Nigerian Importers Protest, Over Surcharges On Cargoes By Int’l Shipping Firms

The nation’s importers are currently groaning under heavy surcharge imposed on cargoes by international shipping firms, which they blame for the increased cost of doing business in Nigerian ports.

This, they lament is worsened by the lingering infrastructure deficiency and cumbersome shipping process at the nation’s gateway.

The latest of, according to the nation’s importers, is German container shipping company- Hapag-Lloyd, which has since December 15, 2019, imposed a revised Peak Season Surcharge (PSS) on Tin Can Island and Apapa ports in Lagos without prior notice.

The company plans to impose the surcharge till further notice.

Hapag-Lloyd imposed the PSS on all container types from across the world to Tin Can Island and Apapa ports, with about $1025 surcharge slammed on every 20 feet (ft) and 40ft container cargoes coming from the United States and its territories, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The same surcharge also applies on cargoes from the rest of the world, which are pegged at $1025 or EUR 930 accordingly, and are different from the ocean tariff rates, and bunker or security-related surcharges, and terminal handling charges, among others that shore up the cost of shipping in Nigeria.

Critical industries in Nigeria are already groaning under the new charges, even as it impacts profits, which has already been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Secretary and Chief Executive, Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, blasted the company for economic sabotage, assuring that the council plans to vehemently resist the action.

Describing the charge as discriminatory and insensitive, Bello lamented further that “there was no notice to us and the shippers that the charge was imminent. From our intelligence these charges are over $1,000… just when the Nigerian economy is recovering a little bit from the effect of COVID-19, it is insensitive for anybody to slam such charges of over $1,000 on Nigeria’s trade.

“It is discriminatory because it is not happening in Togo, Benin or Ghana, why should it be in Nigeria. “We have written a strong letter to the shipping association of Nigeria and we also wrote to their principals overseas, because this is not a local charge.

“Why should Nigeria be the recovery ground for shipping companies? We have three lines of action on the internal level; we are going to call on the Union of Africa’s Shippers’ Council; Global Shippers’ Association and Global Shippers Forum. “On the national level, we are rallying round the organized private sector, I am already in talk with Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), I will talk to Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, as well as big time shippers like Dangote and Nigerian Breweries among others.

“We should all come together and fight against this unnecessary charges. The charges are unilateral and arbitral and we are going to protest against it because it is economic sabotage. It goes deep into Nigeria’s economy recovery. It is against our resolve to recover from the effect of COVID-19,” he said.

Also commenting, Chairman, Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nichol bemoaned the shipping costs, expressing the group’s readiness to take it up with appropriate agencies.

Nichol linked the charge to congestion at the Lagos ports, but insisted that it is uncalled for, considering the negative effect of COVID-19 already on businesses, adding, “we will certainly induce discussions on this with the Shippers Council”.

He stressed the need to review the costs of shipping in Nigeria, noting that “importers hardly make profit” due to excessive charges.

President, Importers Association of Nigeria, Kingsley Chikezie said importers are unhappy about the additional charges from the shipping firm at a time they were complaining about high cost of shipping at the ports.

Chikezie said this development is one of the evils taking place at Nigerian ports, just as the issue of transfer charges among others, urging the authorities to ensure urgent review of the charges.

The decision of the shipping firm has also been described as self-serving and profiteering, which is in contradiction of the trade facilitation rule.

But operators however agree that surcharge of such nature is not novel, recalling that other shipping firms like CMA CGM and Maersk Shipping, had earlier slammed surcharge on Nigerian bound cargoes.

Despite the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hapag-Lloyd closed the first six months of this year with a profit. The group profit stood at $314 million in H1 2020, compared to $165 million seen in the corresponding period a year earlier.