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Stakeholders lament excessive charges on groupage containers

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Shippers and importers have decried excessive charges paid in foreign exchange for clearing groupage containers in Nigeria. They said there are no aspects of clearance of groupage containers that would attract excessive charges and additional cost paid in foreign currency, as all charges relating to the shipment of cargo have been paid upfront before shipment.

The Guardian learnt that the cost of shipping groupage, which is the cheapest method of delivering containers, can be as low as $70 per cubic metre up to $250 per cubic metre, depending on the country from which the container is being shipped. But now the cost has increased to $410 per cubic metre, a situation shippers and importers described as “ripping them off.”

The President, Shippers Association of Lagos, (SAL), Jonathan Nicol, who disclosed this, said more of the groupage issues faced by shippers and importers are mainly from the Chinese shipping agencies handling groupage containers in Nigeria.

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Nicol said freight charges are paid in full from port of loading to port of destination with no hidden charges transferred to the consignee, whether or not there is trans-shipment from another port during transit.

He revealed that on arrival, the shipping lines agents notify the consignees who have the Original House Bill Ladings to come and pick up their cargo after un-stuffing at their warehouse.

Nicol said within this period, the local agent delays in receiving the containers for up to one or two months and puts in a lot of charges on the consignees far and above the cost of the cargo.

“We really do not understand why it takes three months to move groupage containers from the ports for un-stuffing and nobody pays the importers for delays. On storage charges, the bills must be commensurate with the number of days the cargo was stuffed in the warehouse and not the arrival date of the vessel,” he said.

Nicol argued that the consignee should not be subjected to excessive transfer charges from the designated port to the receiving warehouses, noting that the additional cost paid in foreign currency in Nigeria can be termed as capital flight.

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He said due to this issue, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) recently waded into the shippers complaints after one and half years of economic torture from the groupage company in the country, noting that it is even cheaper to clear the container direct if all the consignees agree.

He recalled that most successful big importers today started with groupage shipments, especially when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had warehouses inside the ports and containers were moved directly from the ship or stacking areas to the warehouses for unstuffing.

Nicol further called for simplified methods to be put in place to curtail excessive charges on shippers, adding that importers should be paying freight charges in Nigerian currency to ship owners.

“It is a sin to rip off Nigerian shippers and importers. We have a right to protect our sovereignty,” he added.

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