By Kenneth Jukpor
In a bid to ameliorate the fiscal burden on port users, Nigerian Shippers’ Council has directed shipping companies to refund charges collected as demurrages from March 30th, 2020 when the lockdown in Lagos State commenced.
The Council made this known in a press statement earlier today, where it also demanded the suspension of demurrage charges during the period of the lockdown.
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council has directed shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown with effect from 30th March 2020. This strictly applies to cargo that was discharged at the terminals from the 30th of March 2020,” the statement read.
According to the Council, demurrage charges during this period should be refunded to the consignee or his authorized agent.
“Suspension of demurrage during this period is an incentive for owners of cargo to accelerate the process of taking delivery of their cargo. This suspension of demurrage charges is not an excuse to delay or abandon cargo at the ports. Erring shippers will be sanctioned in addition to having to pay the demurrage due on their cargoes,” the report said.
After conducting daily monitoring exercises, the Council observed that some shippers, through no fault of theirs, have been unable to take delivery of their cargoes because of lack of public transportation, inadequate banking services and limited service providers due to reduced workforce, etc.
The Council also lamented that some shipping companies and terminal operators do not have adequate waiting areas thereby exposing freight agents and other users of their services to conditions which may spread the coronavirus.
To address this, the Council admonished such companies to create an environment that makes it possible to achieve physical distancing and other health and safety guidelines within their premises.
“Services rendered by some terminals and shipping lines are slow and sometimes non-functional which encourages the clustering of agents at entrance of their premises. It was observed that some of these companies do not have functional helplines and customer relations units,” the report added.