There is uncertainty at the nation’s seaports over the Federal Government’s directives, issued through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), to terminal operators and shipping companies to suspend collection of demurrage and storage on cargoes already at the seaports.
Speaking with Daily Sun yesterday, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) accused the terminal operators and shipping companies for continuous collection of fees from clearing agents despite the NPA’s directives to suspend storage fees and demur rage during the Covid-19 lockdown.
They alleged that the terminal operators and the shipping companies have failed to implement the directives by claiming that they were not aware of the circular to suspend demurrage and storage fees.
The agents have also concluded plans to drag both terminal operators and shipping companies to industrial court if they fail to implement the directives and stop charging storage fees and demurrage.
Recall that NPA has directed all terminal operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments (demurrage) from an initial period of 21 days with effect from March 23, 2020.
“The Authority recognises the financial implications of these policies on the terminal operators and will consider a shift in our operational charges to ameliorate the situation of stakeholders,” NPA stated.
However, the Vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto, accused the terminal operators and the shipping companies of flouting the 21-day waiver directive of the NPA.
According to him, “the NPA wrote to all the terminal operators that from March 23, 2020, terminal operators and shipping companies should grant a 21-day waiver on demurrage and storage charges at the ports.We have copies of the letters sent to the terminal operators and shipping companies by the NPA dated April 2, 2020.
“However, despite the letters written to the terminal operators and the shipping companies, nothing has changed at the ports. Clearing agents are still paying demurrage and storage charges at the ports. It is important we let the world know that the operators have refused to comply with NPA’s directive on waiver of shipping and demurrage.”
He said with all these various letters to all these individual terminal operators, it is enough to compute whatever they are losing now and still get it back from NPA.
He added: “The problem we have in this industry who is in charge. Shippers Council will tell you we are the economic regulator and NPA will tell you, we are the landlord. That is what is causing this problem we are having now.
“In other climes where we have ideal societies, we don’t need to go through all these for somebody who is at home to enjoy this thing. It is not a privilege, it is a right because we are in the situation we can declare as force majeure. Even our president has not declared force majuere. Around the world, Italy has the highest number of death, over 16000, but they didn’t close their ports.”