By Ajibola Abayomi,
October 10, 2018.
The National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero has called on the Federal Government to urgently intervene in the planned introduction of congestion surcharge on Nigerian bound cargoes by one of the shipping agencies operating in the country, CMA CGM.
CMA CGM had disclosed its intention to commence collection of congestion surcharge on all cargoes coming to Nigeria with effect from Monday 15th October, 2018 to the tune of $400 per container.
According to Amiwero, the development if allowed to subsist was going to be very disastrous to the economy as according to him, a surcharge is just like penalty adding that one don’t slam surcharge when there was no need for it.
He said that the problem of gridlock that was being experienced at the nation’s port today especially in Lagos area was created by the shipping companies and the terminal operators as shipping companies were supposed to move their cargo in to their holding bays which were nonexistent in the country.
Amiwero, the Managing Director of Eyis Resources Limited argued that “the issue of surcharge is going to have a very negative effect on the economy because once it is accepted by one shipping line or carrier, it is going to be reflected by all carriers and if the country allows it to go down which they will not accept in their country, it will be detrimental to trade”.
“There is no congestion in this country, what you have here is backlog. The government has been very unserious and this is why they are slamming this entire surcharge and our port is becoming extremely expensive when we don’t have a reformed process.
“The import and export of this country is supposed to be reformed because our legal environments actually are archaic and porous. So, we have a system that is being manipulated by the shipping companies and terminal operators. Those are the people who are smiling to the bank every day.
“In a country like this, a shipping company is supposed to have a holding bay, if it doesn’t have it in the port because the contract of carriage is between the shipping company and the terminal operator.
“So, the terminal operators and the shipping companies are supposed to be held responsible for any of these discrepancies, malfunctioning that we have in the port. NPA is supposed to be involved and the federal government itself because all this things are as a result of a concession that was not properly driven.
“We have a concession that you gave the port to some people on lease agreement and you criminally called it concession whereas it is a lease agreement and the component of concession which is the labour, the infrastructure, the tariff and the traffic were given to some people without a law and the component of regulation was not in place before you gave it out.
“So, all this things you are seeing are indices of a failed system, of illegal operation of concession agreement. It is just that we have an agreement which is not backed by law. What you are seeing is the ripple effect of failed concession agreement”.
On the way forward, he quipped,” That is the job of the federal government to intervene and you see, the federal government is intervening with people who don’t understand the procedure. This is the responsibility of the Shippers’ Council because they know that there is no congestion in their port. What you have here is backlog and backlog is a procedure that refused to leave your port because of a failed system.
“The Shippers’ Council, the NPA, the Minister of transportation and the Presidency should step in. During Obasanjo’s regime, things like this were stopped severally because these people are liners and they are testing the waters, once this one goes through, the rest of them will bring in their own surcharge and you will see many other surcharges.
“ And when you have $400 surcharge, the impact in a year is in trillion and apart from this surcharge, if you look at the impact of what all these nuisance is take, it’s more than N7 trillion in a year”.
“Our throughput is going down every day, everywhere you go, the place is empty but because we cannot evacuate our cargo at the right time with the right process and principle. So, we have a backlog, not congestion. Backlog in the sense that it takes may be two to three weeks, even months to move cargo out of the port. And it is the responsibility of the Nigerian Ports Authority to be able to put a lot of things together”, he said.