30 June 2014, Lagos – In a major regulatory intervention since its appointment as ports regulator, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), has slashed some shipping charges imposed on importers by 50 per cent.
It also gave shipping companies 10 days within which to refund container deposits once the importer returns the empty container.
The shipping companies were equally given 21-days ultimatum to effect the new charges in the ports or face sanction.
THISDAY gathered that the decision of the NSC followed weeks of investigation by officials who established that the charges were inappropriate.
The ultimatum which was handed down to the shipping companies took effect last week.
A source told THISDAY that the decision asking the shipping companies to reduce the charges by 50 percent was reached during a stakeholders meeting between the council and the shipping companies in Lagos.
The charges, as sources said, were identified as shipping line agency and container cleaning charges.
THISDAY gathered that during the meeting, the Director, Commercial Shipping Services, Mrs D. Shall-Holma, noted that the Shipping Line Agency Charge (SLAC) was not part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which the council signed with the shipping companies.
Shall-Holma was said to have asked the shipping companies to justify the charge and the service rendered under it.
Following this, one of the representatives of the shipping companies had told the meeting that the Committee set up by Council and the shipping companies to review an existing MoU had recommended SLAC as one of the nomenclatures, but only disagreed on the rate to be collected.
He added that SLAC was part of the terminal handling charges which shipping companies charged before concession of the ports to cover documentation and administrative charges.
After due deliberation on the issue, the Council told the shipping companies to reduce the charge by 50 percent, following which the shipping companies pleaded for 21 days grace period to do so. With this development, the importers are to pay N14,550 on SLAC as against N29,100 earlier paid.
On the Container Cleaning charge, Mrs Shall-Holma expressed surprise that the cleaning fees were being imposed on imports instead of exports.
She was said to have informed the meeting that Global Shippers Forum which Nigeria belongs had discussed this and taken a decision to abolish container cleaning fee globally.
The shipping companies who explained that the charge was to take care of damage of containers by importers when returning them were asked to change the charge from Container Cleaning to Container Maintenance Fee at the rate of N1,500 industry benchmark as against N2,500 earlier collected as Container Cleaning Fee.
In ordering the shipping companies to refund container deposit within 10 days, the Council said it will put in place monitoring mechanism to check the shipping companies that default in payment of refund on container deposits as well as importers that default in returning the empty containers in good time.
The container deposit with shipping companies that is yet to be refunded runs into several billions of Naira.
The Council is expected to work on the penalty to be imposed on shipping companies that fail to refund container deposit within 10 days period.
– This Day