Delayed services, banks, others hinder smooth port operations
. Council urges shippers to take delivery of cargoes
Port operations are not perfect at this critical period, as inefficient service delivery by terminal operators and shipping companies have been identified as bane for smooth operations. Besides, skeletal operations by banks is also posing a challenge to shippers and clearing agents in a bid to take delivery of cargoes.
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), which revealed this to The Guardian, said it also observed that some shipping companies and terminals do not have adequate waiting areas, thereby exposing clearing agents and other users of their services to the elements.
Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello, therefore urged shipping companies and terminal operators to create an atmosphere that makes it possible to achieve physical distancing and other health and safety guidelines within their premises.
Noting that many shippers are not taking delivery of their cargo from the seaports due to the lockdown, Bello enjoined all stakeholders to take advantage of the lockdown to decongest the ports.
The Council had earlier directed shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges during the period of the COVID -19 lockdown with effect from 30th March 2020. “To this end, demurrage charges during this period should be refunded to the consignee or his authorised agent. Suspension of demurrage during this period is an incentive for owners of cargo to accelerate the process of taking delivery of their cargo. It is not, and should not be, an excuse to delay or abandon cargo at the ports. There will be sanctions in addition to the demurrage due on the cargo to erring shippers,” it stated.
Bello noted that services rendered by some terminals and shipping companies are slow and sometimes non-functional, which encourage the clustering of agents at the entrance of their premises.
It was also observed that some do not have functional help lines and customer relations desks. On the part of the clearing agents, he said most of the agents do not comply with the health and safety guidelines of the COVID-19 within and outside the premises of the shipping companies and terminals.
Appreciating the banks, which accepted to re-open their branches in the port area for the payment of Customs’ Duty, Bello said there is a need for them to provide more services such as confirmation of payments and raising of bank drafts, among others, to support port operations.
He also recommended that the shipping companies and terminals should upgrade their online services to discourage human contact especially during the COVID-19 period and at all times.
Bello emphasised that: “Shipping companies and terminals should provide functional help lines to enable agents make necessary inquiries as well as obtain information to avoid physical presence. They should improve on the level of service delivery to customer and reduce delays.
“All freight forwarders should comply with the self-distancing guidelines as well as well as other health and safety regulations. “Freight forwarders should patronize online platforms of the shipping companies and terminals such as the submission of documents, rotation number among others, and try to minimize as much as possible, physical presence at the terminals, banks and shipping company premises,” he stated.
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