THE Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, has ordered operators of bonded terminals and other terminal operators to stop collecting cargo transfer charges. Transfer charges are imposed on cargoes moved from the terminals at the port to bonded terminals as a means of creating space at the sea ports to avoid congestion.
Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that Shippers Council had met with individual terminal operators on the issue after it discovered that they had failed to comply with its circular on stoppage of the charges.
Vanguard Maritime Report further gathered that the two groups of operators have been trading blames over who was responsible for the non-compliance, a situation which forced the NSC to resort to direct summon on each operator. At the end of the meeting according to a source, NSC issued a fresh order to the operators to adhere to the directive of face sanction. Recall that the NSC, which doubles as the ports economic regulator, directed the immediate stoppage of arbitrary charges imposed on transportation of cargo to off-dock terminals, describing the act as unethical and unacceptable. The Council had also directed that “all transfer charges collected from consignees of cargoes transferred from seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, from June 1, 2020 to date, at the instance of the shipping companies/agencies, seaport terminal operators or off-dock terminal operators, without the consignees requesting for such transfer, must be refunded to the consignees immediately.” NSC, in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Relations, Rakiya Zubairu, expressed concern over the deluge of complaints it received from stakeholders over arbitrary levies on container demurrage, storage and transfer charges by shipping companies, terminal operators and off-dock facilities, and warned that the Council will no longer tolerate such charges imposed arbitrarily without carrying the consignees along. It stated: “All transfer charges collected from consignees of cargoes transferred from seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, from June 1, 2020 to date, at the instance of the shipping companies/agencies, seaport terminal operators or off-dock terminal operators, without the consignees requesting for such transfer, must be refunded to the consignees immediately. “Nigeria Shippers’ Council has been inundated with complaints against shipping companies/agencies, seaport terminal operators and off-dock terminals on the arbitrary levy of container demurrage, storage and transfer charges on innocent consignees, for transportation of cargoes to off-dock terminals unilaterally initiated by terminals without the consignees’ consent. “It should be noted that based on international standard and recognisedpractice, freight paid at origin covers movement of cargo to final port of delivery at destination. It follows, therefore, that cargoes earmarked for transfer to off-dock terminals, at the request of the shipping company, seaport terminal operator or off-dock terminal, without the consent of the consignees or their authorized representatives, should not attract charge(s) against the consignees.” Accordingly, the Council rolled out three set of work-in-rule framework to guide all service providers. The first stated: “Import cargoes should be delivered to the nominated port of destination as stated in the Bill of Lading;” while the second states, “Where the operational convenience of the seaport terminals or some other prevailing circumstances necessitate the transfer of cargoes from the seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, the concerned consignees or their authorised agents must be notified in good time, and must not be charged the cost associated with such transfer, including barging cost.” The third states that “Storage and demurrage charges on cargoes earmarked for transfer from seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, without the consent of the consignee, should take effect only after arriving at the designated off-dock terminals.” The statement warned that, “Failure to refund such charges will lead to the Council invoking its regulatory powers to enforce compliance.”