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Shippers’ council moves to curb arbitrary charges by foreign ship-owners

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Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), in collaboration with its African counterpart, has initiated steps to address exorbitant charges imposed on shippers by foreign ship-owners and their agents.Rising from a meeting attended by 16 countries from West and Central Africa in Abuja, members of the Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC) resolved to table the issue at an upcoming meeting of the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) in London.

The participants said African countries could not afford to fold their arms while foreign ship-owners and their agents continue to rip off African shippers through arbitrary charges.

Executive secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, at the meeting made suggestions on how best to check the excesses of the ship-owners and their agents, which the participants adopted.

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Bello, who was the chairman of a standing committee on trade and transport, while speaking on the arbitrary charges and introduction of new nomenclatures by shipping lines, urged member states to insist that shippers must be consulted before new charges were imposed on them.He tasked shippers on studying and asking questions on the components of the charges being presented to them and agreeing on their justification before paying.

The NSC scribe enjoined shippers’ councils in the sub-region to resort to legislation, if the foreign ship-owners continue to impose such charges without negotiation.

According to him, being part of the decision-making before new charges are introduced is the best, as the ship-owners would be in a position to explain the reason for such charges.
 
“Shippers must be part of the decision-making on charges. Sometimes, if you are part of the decision-making, it will even help the operators. There are things you may see and sympathise with them and agree.“We can do a lot of things through legislation. If the European ship-owners remain on their feet that we cannot be part of the negotiation, we use legislation. But there is no law that can say we cannot talk to them,” he noted.

Bello called on the councils to consider the negative effect of the arbitrary charges on their national economies.He added: “If we cannot negotiate charges, if we cannot reduce charges, if we cannot fight arbitrary charges not only on behalf of shippers but for our national economies, then we should be dissolved.

“These charges are affecting our national economies. It affects inflation because all the charges are passed to you and I as the final consumers. It means that the standard of living will reduce drastically because of the issue of affordability. If there is monopoly, then we don’t have choice.

“So, we are doing this not only for the shippers, but also for the providers. I want shippers’ councils to be total, to look at the whole economy. We should work towards having the law, so that we can do what we ought to do.”He called on the secretary general of the union to examine the suggestion by Ghana and Cameroon, which was supported by others, for the constitution of experts to look at unfair trade practices in individual countries for presentation during the GSF meeting in London.He also called on the union to reach out to similar organisations in Latin America and Asia to learn what they had been able to do on issues of illegal charges.

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