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Shippers’ Council threatens to seal terminals collecting transfer charges from consignees

…Reads riot act to bounded terminals

Worried by the rising cost of doing business in Nigerian ports especially within bounded terminals, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has again warned that it would not go back on its promise of sealing off seaports or bounded terminals that are collecting charges on transfers that were not initiated by the consignee.

Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC, who gave this warning in Lagos on Tuesday during on-the-spot assessment of Denca Bounded Terminal and Kachicares Resources Ltd., a container terminal, said that if goods are transferred from the seaport to off-dock terminal that those responsible for initiating the transfer must bear the cost.

According to him, there must also be Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the seaport and bounded terminals because it current procedure was basically an informal arrangement between both parties, which is not acceptable.

“The shipper cannot pay for what is not his responsibility because he has already nominated in the bill of lading, where his cargo should be consigned to. Therefore, transferring the cargo from the original terminal to another is not the responsibility of the consignee.

Bello noted that if the Council discovers that either the seaport terminal or bounded terminal is charging fees abolished, the port regulator would be left with no option than to take very strict measures, which include sealing of premises of the operator.

To ensure operational efficiency, he said the Council would be posting its staff permanently to bounded terminals to collect weekly report of charges, how long it takes a container to exit and difficulties experienced by cargo owners.

According to him, delays are dangerous to cargo evacuation, adding that things would not be the same again.

“We are reviewing the operational efficiency of bounded terminals and you know the main terminals are the seaport terminal and offdock terminals are used to decongest the seaports, and we must ensure efficiency. Recall that in July this year, we issued some circulars which talked about two things; no cargo will be transferred to any terminal except that which has been nominated by the shipper himself. Also, all charges accruing out of that transfer should not be borne by the shipper, which is international practice and standard,” Bello explained.

He said there has been substantial compliance but the Council is now going round to see if shippers are being charged or not and if terminals are complying with the rule of engagement.

Bello added that the review of the terminals to see how things are, the operational deficiencies and ways to tackle them was also to ensure that cost of shipping was brought down considerably.

He noted that in Kachicares Resources Ltd., Container Terminal, there was a substantial compliance but had other issues like delays, poor access to terminals and charges of which they are yet to refund about N3.4 million to shipper.

As regards equipment, he said the Council would look at the frequency and capacity, adding that the terminal has a capacity of 28,000 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).

As regards the Denca Bonded Terminal, Bello said he was not happy with what was happening at the terminal, adding that there was about N40million charges belonging to shippers that had not been refunded.

He said that going forward they would work with Nigerian Customs to ensure proper situation, location and geographical availability to be considered before a terminal was situated.

Earlier, Tony Asiadiachi, general manager, Denca Bonded Terminal, said that containers transferred to their terminal come with bills such as transfer charges to cover the cost of transportation (barging and trucking) and terminal storage charges.

He said that such payments were made in advance to seaport terminal operators, and this must be recouped by the bounded terminals from the consignees.

In his response, Lawrence Eboji, head of operations, Kachicares Resources Ltd., Container Terminal said that the terminal had enough cargo handling equipment to handle about containers assigned to them by shipping companies.

In terms of charges, he said the terminal was not giving any abnormal charges as most of the complaints of customers originate from the mother port.

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