By Kenneth Jukpor
The protests over the e-valuation process of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) which crippled port activities at the Tin Can Island Port (TCIP) ended a fortnight ago, but the effects are just beginning to plague shippers and their freight agents.
At the RoRo terminals; Five Star Logistics Terminal and Ports and Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML) over 12,000 vehicles were reportedly stuck as a result of the protests, while activities at neighbouring terminals such as; Ports and Cargo Handling Services, Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and Josepdam Services Nigeria Limited were also grounded during the crisis.
Normalcy has returned at TCIP since Customs gave a one-month window for evacuation of cargoes under the former valuation process, but there are conflicting tales surrounding the availability of waivers and mixed interpretations by the terminals and shipping companies.
While PTML and its shipping line Grimaldi has publicly announced waivers, Ports and Cargo has subtly followed suit; but Five Star, TCIT and Josepdam have been discreet on the issue.
Applications for waivers have flooded the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) with expectations that the port economic regulator would direct shipping lines and terminals to make fiscal considerations, but no decisive action has been taken by the Council.
In one of the letters sighted by our correspondent, Alpha Chizzy Integrated Services Limited, a freight forwarding company beckoned on the Executive Secretary of NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime to facilitate waiver provisions for cargoes which arrived at Tin Can Island Port on February 10th, 2022 few days before the protests.
The letter titled: ‘Application for Waiver’ read “I hereby apply through your office for a waiver, from MAERSK Line shipping company. Due to the new government policy on VIN valuation for automobiles, freight forwarders embarked on some weeks of strike.”
“My container came in on the 10th Of February, with MAERSK Cameroon Voyage 152W. I accessed my job, paid my duty, did my physical examination at the terminal but was not able to be released from the customs unit due to the protests. I have also paid my shipping charges and been released from the shipping company since 15th of February, 2022.”
“Now that the government has reversed the policy for the next one month, please I want you to use your good office to request for a waiver on my behalf from the MAERSK Line. Thanks for your swift response.”
When contacted, the Director of Consumer Affairs at NSC, Chief Cajetan Agu noted that PTML had promised to give waivers and Five Star Logistics is expected to do the same.
“I’m aware PTML gave 70% waivers for the strike period. Most of the protests were at PTML and that terminal is unique because PTML and Grimaldi are operated by the same company. So, I’m sure that the waivers are for terminal storage charges and the shipping company’s charges. If PTML is giving waivers, the expectation is that Five Star will also give waivers,” Agu said.
Speaking with MMS Plus, the Chairman of the TCIP Chapter of the Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Mr. Godfrey Nwosu noted that the waiver interpretation has become a controversial issue at the terminals.
His words: “Only PTML has publicly stated that it granted waivers. Five Star didn’t give any waivers. After freight agents mounted pressure at Port and Cargo, they have promised to look into the issue. Nevertheless, anyone waiting on such promises would suffer from the additional storage charges accumulating.”
“What we have observed is that the waivers are calculated for shipments that came in after February 13th when the protests started. This is posing a quagmire because some freight agents go to various terminals and get waivers while others don’t. Some of the cargoes that came in before February 13th were affected because they couldn’t be cleared before the protests. There is no provision of waivers for such cargoes and it’s currently a big misunderstanding at Tin Can”
He, however, beckoned on NSC to clarify the timeframe for the waivers with the terminals and shipping lines.
Nwosu also observed that the other non-RoRo terminals at Tin Can haven’t made waiver considerations for their cargoes even though access to the terminals wasn’t possible within the period of the protests.
On his part, the President of Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol has pleaded with all terminals at the Tin Can Island Port to provide waivers for the crisis period.
According to Nicol, absence of waivers will mean more fiscal burdens on shippers for not just vehicles at PTML and Five Star, but also other cargoes trapped at the three separate terminals at TCIP.
“Ideally, it shouldn’t be a discussion for the terminals involved. All the terminals involved should have known that waivers would be given after such national protests. Shippers’ Council should be able to broker this arrangement if the terminals and shipping lines don’t cooperate,” he said.
Nicol added that the fiscal consequence of strike actions at the seaports is the major reason shippers don’t subscribe to strikes and protests at the ports despite numerous challenges in the sector.
“While this negotiation is ongoing, the fact is that shippers will still have to pay the fees. We have talked about 70 percent waivers approved by some terminals but that is 30 percent additional costs to shippers that could have taken delivery of their cargoes sooner,” he added.
He, however, commended PTML for the proactive measure to provide waivers and implored other terminals to follow suit, stressing that container terminals should note that the inability to evacuate the cargoes was neither the fault of the shippers nor their freight agents.
In a related development, Tin Can Island Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) announced that it has secured a five days waiver from Ports & Cargo Terminal for its members to clear the backlog of cargoes trapped inside the terminal.
In a statement by the Public Relations Officer of ANLCA Tin Can Chapter, Alhaji Idowu Owoade on Wednesday, the group said the five days waiver was secured by the Chapter Chairman, Alhaji Muhammed Mojeed after deliberations with the terminal management.
“This is to inform all our members that Alhaji Mojeed Muhammed,the chairman ANLCA Tincan chapter and his executives has succeeded in getting 5days waiver after much deliberation with Port and cargo management.”
“It was not easy in the first instant because they insisted that the money will be deducted from the first period which is insignificant to the value of demurrage involved. But at the end of the day, it was finally agreed that the 5 days will be deducted from the 3rd period which is reasonable to some extent. Members can now go to the commercial manager of Port and Cargo Terminal who would minute on their invoice, to be taken to Audit before payment can be made. They can also bring their invoice to ANLCA Tin Can Chapter Secretariat,” he said.
However, he clarified that the concession can only be applicable on invoices between 22nd February 2022 and 8th March 2022.