Freight forwarders under the aegis of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) have lambasted terminal operators and shipping companies for flouting the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) directive on the suspension of storage and demurrage fees on cargoes at the seaports.
In a letter dated April 2, 2020, obtained by ANLCA executives, with reference number HQ/GM/MRS/OP.L1/Vol ii/347 signed by the General Manager, Monitoring and Regulatory Services, Ugo Madubuike for the Managing Director, NPA directed the terminal operators to provide relief for businesses by suspending rent charges on consignments.
According to the letter titled, “Relief Measures To Port Users Due To Outbreak of Covid-19”, read: “Following the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in Iine with the global trend of providing reliefs to businesses for the benefit of the general populace, you are hereby directed to suspend rent charges on consignments with effect from Monday 23rd March 2020 for an initial period of 21 days.
“The Authority recognizes the financial implication of the policy on your terminal and is considering a shift in our operational charges to ameliorate the situation.
“This is presented in line with the objectives of the Ease-Of-Doing-Busines, as well as the sensitivity of the Authority to the current situation and sustenance of national economic activities and for immediate compliance.”
However, while clearing agents raised the alarm of continued collection of demurrage and storage fee, the terminal operator have called for re-definition of the directive so that importers won’t take advantage of the relief period
Speaking with newsmen yesterday some of the executive members of the association accused the terminal operators and the shipping companies of flouting the 21-Days waiver directive of the NPA.
The ANLCA Vice President, Mr. Kayode Farinto said “NPA wrote to all the terminal operators that from on the 23rd of March, 2020, terminal operators and shipping companies should grant a 21-Days waiver on demurrages and storage charges at the ports.
“We have copies of the letters written to the terminal operators and shipping companies by the NPA dated April 2, 2020. However, despite the letters written to the terminal operators and the shipping companies, nothing as changed at the ports.
“Clearing agents are still paying demurrage charges and storage charges at the ports. It is important we let the world know that the operators have refused to comply with NPA’s directive on waiver of shipping and demurrage charges”.
The National Secretary of ANLCA,Alhaji Mukaila Babatunde further stressed that the terminal operators and the shipping companies have failed to implement the directives by claiming that they were not aware about the circular to suspend dumurage and storage fees.
He pleaded with the terminal operators and shipping companies to obey the NPA’s directive on the waivers.
His words “Looking at the tone of that letter, it is stated that the directive is for the first 21 days, meaning that after that 21 days there is room for review upward”
According to him, when there are issues like the Covid-19 pandemic, the importers and agents that suffered most, yet it is not good for the profession and the image of the nation.
“As an association, we will be forced to declare what is called morodotory. There are too many things that are working against the people staying at home now. Our job is about contract, we source for money to clear containers and you pay me back after 90 days and you are saying agents should go and stay at home. They are not taking care of, they are not protected.” He said.