The Chairman, International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA), Tincan Island chapter, Mr. Akintoye Ojo Peter has frowned at the continued insistence of the management of the various shipping companies operating at the nation’s seaport on giving container deposit refund to importers as against the agent whose money was drawn from his company account in respect of the deposit.
Reacting to the statement credited to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council on moves to abolish the container deposit overtime, Akintoye noted that the container deposit if abolished would save freight forwarders from going into unnecessary debt that they hitherto would not have incurred while clearing goods for private individuals at the ports.
He observed that the shipping companies collect so much money from the freight forwarders in the name of container deposit adding that it was their opinion that it was criminal for shipping companies to collect container deposit from them and refused to refund the money back to them.
He said, “It is the best thing for them to do because there are lots of challenges we are facing as practitioners. Sometimes, on our own we look for money to pay for container deposit and deliver the vehicles to them and when they want to pay the refund, they are now telling you that they want to make the refund to the owner of the consignment, the money I borrowed to pay, they will say because I am not the consignee but you never told me that I am not the consignee when I am paying to you. You took my company’s check as a draft and we drew money from my own company’s account to you, you didn’t complain of that.
“Now talking of refund, I didn’t say you should give me cash, why can’t you pay that money back into my account so that even if there is problem tomorrow, you can be able to say, this is the account where the money was lodged and it is not an individual account but company’s instead they will be requesting for the importer’s account number and you know that most of our importers are very mischievous. They will think that that money is part of what you have made from them.
“I lost more than Six Million Naira to Maersk Line last year, I was clearing for one Indian company but the contract I had with them was door to door, even sometimes I finance their work. Pay my money back, they will not pay, they will say they want to pay the owner. According to them, they said that they paid to that Indian company, Indian people said they didn’t see money, Maersk Line is claiming that they paid, the India people refused to pay my money. These are the kind of challenges we are facing”.
However, the National Executive Director, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria, Mr. Paul Ndibe disagreed with the position of Akintoye arguing that it was the shipper who bore the burden of container deposit while the freight forwarders got the benefits.
In his submission, Ndibe adduced that the freight forwarder would collect the money from the importer and pay for container deposit only to disappear with the money once he delivered the consignment, returned the empty container and collect the refund.
“Once he delivers your load, you will not hear from him again, he will return the container and get that refund, he is not going to give you that money again, it goes to the clearing agent as part of his earnings”, he said.
When reminded of the claims by the freight forwarders that most time they borrow money to pay for the container deposit on behalf of the importers and never get it back when refund was made to the importers, he said,” What of those that will collect this money directly from the shipper? Who has conducted a survey to know the percentage of this fund that actually flows out of the shipper and the percentage that flows from the clearing agents? 90% of cases, the shipper pays and it is in 10% or 15% that the shipper gets his refund. Majority of clearing agents collect this money and will disappear, they will not return this money to the shipper”.
He however posited that if Shippers’ Council had taken that decision to abolish payment of container deposit in an attempt to defend or protect the shipper, it would be a welcome development.
He continued, “But if it is abolished, it is abolished, but then the snag is you see containers littering all over the places, nobody will protect the interest of returning the empty containers to the ports. So, if there is nothing you are going to gain by taking extra burden to return empty containers to where it should be returned, of course, containers will start littering and then there will be shortage of containers for the movement of goods somehow.
“So, it has to be a decision that is well crafted in such a way that the shippers will not be shortchanged and containers will be returned promptly. But it depends on the honesty of the freight forwarders, in most cases, they are dishonest”.
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