By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why importers abandon their Containerised cargoes at the nation’s seaports. This is because of the outrageous demurrage slammed on their Containers by shipping Companies and the Terminal Operators and the high cost of clearing and import duties compared to what obtains in neighbouring Republic of Benin and other ports in the West African sub-region.
The cost of clearing may have been made worse for importers because of the additional costs incurred if the Container had to be transferred to terminals outside the seaport. Take for instance , to transfer a ‘’20’’ Containerised Container from Tin can Island port to Hanova terminal, cost the importer between N180,000.00 to N200,000.00. The Magazine gathered that the importer must pay for the cost of transferring the Container to Terminal from the port before being allowed to take delivery of the Consignment. The situation is the same in other terminals within Lagos serviced by Apapa or Tin-can Island ports.
Raphael Agbogu, Managing Director, Sovereign Gate International Nig. Limited and Director, Public Relations , National Council of Managing Directors of licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, in an interview with The Magazine lamented that the Cost of clearing a ‘’40’’ at the seaport was about N480,000.00 and N380,000.00 for a ‘’20’’ Container but higher the terminals outside the port because of the transfer charges
This may have informed why many importers abandoned their cargoes at Apapa, Tin can and Grilmaldi , popular, Port Multi-services Terminal, PTML. Agbogu, noted that many Nigerian importers , prior to the border closure over two months ago had relocated to Benin Terminal, Cotonou and Bollore port, in Republic of Benin and other ports in the West African sub-region , to take delivery of their goods, because their tariffs are constant. ‘’The amount an importer would spend to clear a ‘’20’’ or ‘’40’’ Container this year is the same amount that could be spent the following year’’, he said.
The NCMDLCA , Director, of Public Relations, disclosed that the running of the terminals in Nigeria by the Terminal Operators, which are answerable to the Nigerian Port Authority, NPA, which Concessioned the terminals to them between 2006 and now are different from what obtains in Benin and the other ECOWAS member countries. According to him, when an importer could not take delivery of his Consignment at the port when the grace period of doing so had elapsed, the government will write the company or the individual importer to know what is holding their Consignment at the port and the assistance it could give to facilitate the release of the cargo to them.
Given an insider information, he disclosed that the government will never write the importer to know what is delaying the Company or the individual importer from taking delivery of their cargoes from the port. Agbgu who could not hide his feelings said the terminal Operators and the shipping Companies prefer the Nigerian arrangement of running the ports as the Consignments would enter into overtime which means more mney money to them as the importer would forced to pay demurrage which runs into millions of naira.
An insider information told The Magazine that Containerised cargoes discharged at the ports in Nigerian are declared as overtime cargo after about three months without the importer coming up to take delivery of it.
It is not surprising why Overtime cargoes litter the terminals as many of such Containers have been transferred to Ikorodu Container Terminal in readiness for auctioning.. A source informed the Magazine that at present there are over 5,000 overtime cargoes at the ports and Ikorodu Container Terminal, witing to be auctioned. Note that if the overtime cargoes are auctioned, the Terminal Operators only get a Statutory of payment of 25% of the auction price. Take for instance, a Containerised cargo valued at about about N30 million could be auctioned for a paltry sum of N300,000.00, just to create space at the port or Ikorodu Terminal to keep other cargoes.
, The Terminal Operators may have realised that auctioning the Overtime cargoes in their terminals was not beneficial to them but the government that they were said to reached out to the importers with their clearing agents in order to reach a compromise on how they could take delivery of their cargoes which had been declared as overtime by the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS .
The Magazine learnt that a recent meeting between the Shipping Companies, Terminal Operators and Representatives of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, the Companies were said to have listened to the cries of the Agents and the reasons why their clients could not afford to pay the demurrage imposed in their Consignments at the terminals and therefore, have no option but to abandon it for government to take over and auction it.
Given that they could only be given 25% Statutory payment from the government if the Container had been, auctioned , the Terminal Operators and the shipping Companies were said to have agreed at the closed meeting with the agents to reduce their demurrage charges on overtime cargoes by about 90% to give the owners of such cargoes the opportunity to pay and pick their Containers at their Terminals without further delay. The terminal Operators may have seen the 25 % statutory payment for their services was inadequate compared to the huge Operational costs incurred when the Containers were in their Custody.
Investigation shows that some of the Containers, particular, ‘’20’’ that been auctioned at the Ikorodu Container Terminal, the amount paid by the buyers were said to be below the demurrage and cost of freighting the cargo from Europe , North America, India or China to Nigeria,. The Magazine findings shows that that it is as low as 10% of the value of the cargoes import.
R Although the Terminal Operators had agreed to the sharing arrangement of the auctioned cargoes with the government, , they had raised alarm in 2018, that government could not even fulfill its own part of the obligation by paying them the Statutory 25% from the auction sales as agreed.
In spite of the fact that the terminal Operators had reduced their demurrage charges on overtime cargoes in their Terminals by 90 %, as a way of encouraging the owners of the cargoes to rush , pay and take delivery of their cargoes, the response has been very frustrating to the terminal Operators. They had expected a massive response from the overtime cargoes owners at the terminals struggling to process their import documents with Customs personnel at the various terminals but the response has been very slow, fueling speculations that the importers with their agents want more Concession from the terminal Operators.
The terminal Operators, according to a source, believe they have made enough Concession to the importers with their agents to encourage them to take delivery of their overtime cargoes at their various terminals that it would be difficult to go below the 90% waiver granted them to take delivery of their cargoes as it would not cover their Operational Costs and other Administrative expenses incurred in keeping custody of the goods. This is bad news for the importers whose cargoes had been declared overtime and who could not afford the 10% of the value of the demurrage charged by the terminal operators on the cargoes as would finally lose it to the government which would auction it.
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