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Importers, others kick against surcharge on cargoes

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[FILES] German container shipping firm, Hapag-Lloyd, has imposed a revised Peak Season Surcharge (PSS) on all container types from across the world. Photo; LOGUPDATEAFRICA

Nigerian importers have decried the huge surcharge imposed on them by international shipping firms for cargoes brought into the country.

Also, some critical industries in the country are groaning under the burden of the additional charges, which negatively affect their profits that have already been crashed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Guardian learnt that for over nine months, a German container shipping firm, Hapag-Lloyd, has imposed a revised Peak Season Surcharge (PSS) on all container types from across the world to the Tin Can Island and Apapa ports in Lagos.

Documents obtained by the media showed that about $1025 surcharge was slammed on 20 feet and 40 feet containers coming from the United States, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Charges on cargoes from the rest of the world were also pegged at $1025 or EURO 930 accordingly.

It was learnt that these charges are different from the ocean tariff rates, bunker-related and security-related surcharges, and terminal handling charges, among others, that shore up the cost of shipping in Nigeria.

Notwithstanding the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hapag-Lloyd closed the first six months of this year with a profit of $314 million, compared to $165 million seen in the corresponding period a year earlier.

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Before now, CMA CGM and Maersk Shipping had slammed surcharge on Nigeria-bound cargoes.

The Chairman, Shippers Association, Lagos State, Jonathan Nichol, who bemoaned the shipping costs, expressed the group’s readiness to take the matter up with the appropriate government agencies.

Nichol, who said the surcharge could be linked to the congestion at the Lagos ports, described it as uncalled for, considering the negative effect of COVID-19. He stressed the need to review the costs of shipping in the country, lamenting that importers hardly make profit due to excessive charges.

The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, described the charges as economic sabotage, disclosing that the council was moving against the action of the shipping firm.

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Bello, who claimed that there was no notice to the shippers and the council that the charge was imminent, said: “From our intelligence, these charges are over $1,000. It is insensitive. Just when the Nigerian economy is recovering a little bit from the effect of COVID-19, it is insensitive for anybody to slam such charges of over $1,000 on Nigeria’s trade.

‘This is discriminatory as such does not happen in Togo, Benin or Ghana. Why should it be in Nigeria?”

The President, Importers Association of Nigeria, Kingsley Chikezie, said the importers were not happy about the additional charges that came at a time they were complaining about high cost of shipping at the ports. He urged the authorities to ensure urgent review of the charges.

It was gathered that some industrialists who are severely affected by the surcharge have urged the Federal Government to sue the shipping firm for allegedly operating against the rule of trade facilitation agenda of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) during the pandemic.

The Managing Director of WellWaters Resources, Mr. Ogunlade Olabisi, called on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to intervene in the matter.

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