Shippers Association set to engage NSC over hike in freight charges

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Following the biting scarcity of containers in China and Europe for export purposes to Nigeria and other importing nations leading to hike in freight charges, the Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS) has said that it would engage the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to wade into the matter.

The President, SALS, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol who stated this in a chat with newsmen in Lagos recently informed that as an association, they would support the NSC in its effort to negotiate equitable freight charges for Nigeria bound cargoes.

Nicol informed that at the association level, he had earlier held a meeting with the leadership of the major markets in Lagos where they agreed to come together so as to put a stop to this increase in freight charges by the shipping lines.

He said, “In a few months from now, we will enter into the peak season and they will slam us with another surcharge. Last year, we had a very interesting argument about the peak season surcharges, now, this is just March, they have increased their freight. By the time we get to June, maybe we will be paying $20,000 to move containers from China to Nigeria.

“It is not encouraging, it is destructive, it is wicked and unreasonable. Much as we agree that shipping lines have their own problems, we cannot service the taxi driver’s car for him to carry our cargo. So, they should solve their own problems and let conventions take its toll. If I tell you that shippers are on the receiving end for so many years now.

“All of the markets put together including the Shippers’ Association Lagos State will come together and when we sign a document that we will not pay that freight, I believe they will listen to us.”

On complaints by the shipping lines of scarcity of empty container for export, he said, “If they now complain that they don’t have containers to bring in our imports, how is that the fault of the shipper? Before we placed order, there is an understanding that we will move our cargo to our country, you did not tell us that you did not have containers to move our cargo. After we have paid your freight, you are now coming back to say you have increased freight. It is like somebody taking Nigerian loan at 22 percent, the moment they grant you loan, after three months; they increase it 27 per cent.

“So, again, we hold the regulatory bodies responsible for this and I will pass this information to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to look into it and then, if there are ways we can smoothen the situation for Nigerian shippers, we will do so. China should not have done that because they have companies here in Nigeria, they ought to have removed their empty containers back to China as well and in fact, if they don’t do that, it means they have underlying issues which they have not told us.

“So, you don’t bring containers that are outdated into our country and you find it difficult to send it back to your country. So, the federal government should stand up now and examine these empty containers for their lifespan and those of them that expired should either be sent to the scrap yard or you ask the owners of the containers to move it out of our space.

“So, the increase in the freight charges will be looked strictly on merit and then, we will ask the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to wade into it and we will give them all our support.”

On empty containers littering the streets of Lagos, Rev. Nicol said, “We have done all we need to do, we have told the government all we want them to do. We have called for government to bring in what we call state of emergency so that they will have time to smoothen their platforms. We are in the forefront of getting the shipping lines to evacuate their empty containers for several years. And these empty containers are littered all over Lagos, in fact, even if you have to travel outside this Lagos state, you still see containers on the highways. It never used to be so.

“In those days, the shipping lines will go after their empty containers, they will send their marketing officers to track their containers but all of that is gone because of policy summersault. And we have made that clear to the government that they should as a matter of urgency because the port is a money spinning ATM, every micro-second of the day, someone is paying some bills and because we pay bills, we need services.

“This issue of empty containers should have been of benefit to Nigeria if we have the cooperation of all those involved in the management of our ports because export has suddenly blossomed. It is huge and you need all these empty containers to carry your exports from the farms to the shipping lines and then, out to whichever country that placed order on them. So, it is a two way thing, in the absence of that, the other empty containers lying in their terminals which, of course, we cannot count at the moment should have been evacuated from the various terminals in the ports.”

He disclosed that the shipping lines would prefer to keep their empty containers at the terminals because some of those containers may have expired and cannot be exported back to the country of origin and so, “they are in a dilemma of keeping the containers here as we don’t have regulations here to sanction them for keeping the empty containers.”

Photo: The President, Shippers Association Lagos State, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Nicol.

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