By Gboyega Oni
The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has lambasted shipping companies, particularly COSCO Shipping Company and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), for failing to provide holding bays for empty containers, saying it is a deliberate effort to delay refund of Container Deposit Fees (CDF) in their custody to importers.
Prince Segun Oduntan, Chairman of Tin Can Island Chapter of ANLCA, stated this last week in an interview with PortNews on the state of maritime industry in his office in Apapa, Lagos.
Oduntan noted that shipping companies are in business to maximise profit which explains their unwillingness to refund the fees in their possession as and at when due, with some of them telling you that they make refund weekly or fortnightly whereas, sometimes, it takes more than a month.
He said that if all shipping companies had provided holding bays empties would not be trapped in the traffic gridlocks on the port access roads and importers would meet the time stipulated for empties to be returned so that they can claim their deposits.
Oduntan who is the Managing Director of Settle Systems Limited, a freight forwarding company, noted that Tin Can ANLCA had waded into the matter by engaging and writing letters to all shipping lines to provide holding bays to quicken return of empties and save the time trucks spend in the traffic while returning empties into the ports.
He enjoined COSCO and MSC to copy the example of Mearsk Lines and CMA CGM who have provided holding bays thus making it easy for agents to get their importers refunded.
The ANLCA Chairman however blamed the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), whom he described as the Regulator in the case, for failing to intervene timely before the refund issue became problematic, noting that if NSC had intervened timely and pronounced a standard time for refund, shipping lines would comply and refund importers timely.
‘If the Nigerian Shippers Council says all shipping lines must make a refund within a certain standard period of time, you will know that they have drawn a deadline for shipping companies to meet. But as the arbiter it is not forthcoming to intervene. The traffic is also not helping but we have been engaging shipping companies time to time to provide holding bays. Mearsk Line and CMA CGM have provided holding bays but COSCO, MSC have not responded meaning that they have not provided holding bays,’ he said.
Oduntan said his administration would not relent in taking up the matter with COSCO, MSC and others who are yet to provide holding bays. ‘We are taking them up on the issue until they provide holding bays,’ Oduntan said.
Commending the Customs authority at Tin Can port on effective cargo delivery, the debonair ANLCA politician said that if NICISS project is implemented to the letter, there won’t be any issue of hacking of licences and unnecessary alerts will stop, as everybody will be under one-stop shop. But he expressed fears that some government agencies may act contrary to the tenets of NICISS and derail the success of the project. He advised that all government agencies must be factored into the project.