Refund importers all illegal transfer charges now or face sanction, Shippers’ Council tells cargo handlers

Barrister Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council

By Adegboyega Oni

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has ordered all cargo handlers – shipping companies, shipping agencies, seaport terminal operators, and off-dock terminal operators – to refund importers all transfer charges collected from June 1, 2020, to date from them for transferring their cargoes to off-dock terminals without their consents.

The Council frowned at the way the cargo handlers forcing importers to pay these arbitrary levies – container demurrage, storage, and transfer – which it described as unethical and unwholesome.

The shipping regulator, in a press statement released by its Head of Public Relations, Rakiya Zubairu, vowed to invoke its constitutional power against such unscrupulous shipping companies, agencies, seaport terminals, and off-dock terminals if they fail to refund the illegal collections immediately.

According to the statement, ‘’the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been inundated with complaints against shipping companies/agencies, seaport terminal operators and off-dock terminals on the arbitrary levy of container demurrage, storage and transfer charges on innocent consignees, for transportation of cargoes to off-dock terminals unilaterally initiated by terminals without the consignees’ consent.

‘’It should be noted that based on international standard and recognised practice, freight paid at origin covers the movement of cargo to the final port of delivery at destination. It follows, therefore, that cargoes earmarked for transfer to off-dock terminals, at the request of the shipping company, seaport terminal operator, or off-dock terminal, without the consent of the consignees or their authorized representatives, should not attract charge(s) against the consignees.’’

The Council resolved that import cargoes should be delivered to the nominated port of destination as stated in the Bill of Lading; where the operational convenience of the seaport terminals or some other prevailing circumstances necessitate the transfer of cargoes from the seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, the concerned consignees or their authorized agents must be notified in good time, and must not be charged the cost associated with such transfer, including barging cost; and storage and demurrage charges on cargoes earmarked for transfer from seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, without the consent of the consignee, should take effect only after arriving at the designated off-dock terminals.

It maintained that all service providers must be guided by these resolutions.    

‘’Consequently, all transfer charges collected from consignees of cargoes transferred from seaport terminals to off-dock terminals, from 1st June 2020 to date, at the instance of the shipping companies/agencies, seaport terminal operators or off-dock terminal operators, without the consignees requesting for such transfer, must be refunded to the consignees immediately. Failure to refund such charges will lead to the Council invoking its regulatory powers to enforce compliance,’’ the Council said.

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