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Shippers association seeks stoppage of excessive charges for groupage containers

Rev. Jonathan Nicole, President, Shippers Association of Lagos (SAL), has called for the stoppage of excessive charges for groupage containers in Nigeria.

Nicole made the call in a statement on Saturday in Lagos.

The term groupage refers to a type of shipment, which is increasingly widespread in international trade; which consists of grouping small shipments of goods that have the same or near origin and destination, so as to form a more manageable load unit.

He said groupage shipment was one aspect through which Nigerian shippers and importers were being ripped off.

According to him, the shipping lines agents in Nigeria are not sincere in handling of groupage containers.

“No hidden charges are transferred to the consignee whether or not there is trans-shipment from another port during transit.

“On arrival, the shipping lines agents notify the consignees who have the original House Bill Ladings indicating their own cargo to come and pick up their cargo after unstuffing.

“In some cases, the local receiving agency delays in receiving the containers for up to one or two months. After receiving the containers and unstuffing at their warehouse, the consignees are informed to come and pick their cargo.

“Within this period, the local agent puts in a lot of charges against the consignees far and above the cost of the cargo. It is even cheaper to clear the container direct if all the consignees agree,” he said.

He noted that the Master Bill Lading was normally consigned to the ship’s local agent while the House Bill Ladings shows owners of each cargo in the container.

He added that there were more groupage issues mainly from the Chinese shipping agencies handling groupage containers in Nigeria.

He said that some of these issues made the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to recently wade into the shippers complaints after one and half years of economic torture from the same company.

“It is, therefore, necessary to peg charges on groupage containers in Nigeria.

“Most successful big importers today started with groupage shipments.

“Then, Nigerian Ports Authority had warehouses inside the ports and containers are moved direct from the ship or stacking areas to the warehouses for unstuffing.

“We really do not understand why it takes three months to move groupage containers from the ports for unstuffing and nobody pays the importers for delays,” he said.

Nicole noted that there was no aspect of clearance of groupage containers to attract additional cost to be paid in foreign currency, adding that it should stop.

Speaking on storage charges, he said the bills must be commensurate with the number of days the cargo was stuffed in the warehouse and not the arrival date of the vessel.

He added that consignee should not be subjected to excessive transfer charges from the designated port to the receiving warehouses as all charges relating to the shipment of the cargo were paid upfront before shipment

“In considering the difficulties in Nigeria clearing systems, simplified methods must be put in place to curtail excessive charges on shippers.

“Additional cost paid in foreign currency in Nigeria can be termed as capital flight.

“Freight collect cargoes are normally paid in Nigerian currencies at the official bank rate if evidence is produced. Such cargo will not be released to the owner until the freight has been paid.

“This issue must be dealt with in a forum for discussion with some of the groupage operators in Nigeria, the Nigerian Shippers Council and the shippers and importers.

“Alternatively, importers should be paying freight charges in Nigeria currency to ship owners. We have a right to protect our sovereignty. Afterall, we are one big family,” he said.

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