The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the ports economic regulator is currently addressing various complaints brought against service providers by importers and their customs agents across the country THISDAY findings have revealed.
The complaints, which are against some shipping companies and terminal operators, are impacting negatively on ease of doing business at the ports.
A source close to the Complaints Unit of the Council said these issues include arbitrary increase in charges, off dock terminal charges regarded as double taxation, transfer charges against the consent of importers and breach of contract of affreightment by the carrier shipping companies.
Others include very poor customers relations, which customs agents described as very humiliating treatment on consignees, exporters and clearing agents by shipping companies and security staff of the off dock terminals.
Other cases pointed out were poor system of stacking, which leads to difficulty in loading containers for scanning and examination, damage to cargo at the ports, terminal, warehouses, short-landing and delivery , delayed receipt of empty containers by shipping companies at the designated terminal or holding bay and cargo loss.
Some of the shipping companies, THISDAY learnt, are also being accused of not refunding deposits paid on empty containers and excessive rated storage charges.
Other complaints are allegation of punitive and unjustifiable charges for stale container deposit refund cheques; slow and lackluster handling of claims, including deliberate attempts to unjustifiably limit liability by shipping agencies and terminal operators despite acceptance of the liability.
Described as more worrisome by shippers was the issue of excessive and illegal demurrage charges by some off-dock bonded terminals.
It was gathered that the council has been holding series of meetings with some of the service providers involved to handle the issues raised.
The affected consumers of shipping services were said to have approached the council for intervention after their efforts to get the service providers address the issues failed.
THISDAY learnt that officials of the Complaints Unit of the Council have held meetings with some of the service providers to resolve the issues.
It was gathered that some of the cases raised have been resolved while some are still pending.
It was also gathered that the NCS has maintained dialogue with the affected service providers, mounting pressures on them to do the right thing.
The source said the NCS has been persuasive and only adopt hard measures if the affected service providers fail to embrace peaceful moves.
The President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Increase Uche had recently expressed satisfaction with the NSC on some policies and projects being promoted by the ports economic regulator that are targeted at achieving ease of doing business at the ports.
“Interface with service providers and customs service commands by the Council leadership and management staff on ease of doing business have impacted positively on services at the ports, smoothening operations in many ways,” Uche said.
He pointed out that dialogue with the service providers on the need to fast-track and improve services at the ports have compelled many of them to improve on their equipment profile.
According to freight forwarders, having enough cargo handling equipment help in positioning of containers for examination very fast, thereby improving on turnaround time of vessels calling at the nation’s ports.
Uche said that the NSC has been able to carry every stakeholder along on issues affecting the industry, adding that this was responsible for the goodwill that the economic regulator enjoys in the sector.
“NSC has really done well. I must give them kudos, looking at how far they have been able to handle the aspect of their functions in the logistics chain”, the NAGAFF President said.
He added that the Council needs to be protected and empowered more by statutory laws that will enable them ‘bite when the need arises,” he said.
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