FREIGHT AGENTS DECRY HIGH LEVEL OF EXTORTION BY SHIPPING COMPANIES AND TERMINAL OPERATORS
*** MSC, APMT and CMA top the list
*** Urge Federal Government to revoke concession agreement
By Mcanthony Onuoha
Maritime industry players have unequivocally condemned what they described as “high level of corruption” among shipping companies and terminal operators.
One of the Stakeholders and Former two-time Vice Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents- ANLCA, TinCan Chapter, Barr. Ada Akpunonu, in a chat with the Prestige Blended Magazine, said there was no better way one could actually define corruption, but that of Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators stink, ” theirs is at the highest level one can think of. A shipping line like MSC, takes more than two weeks to have your consignment released. Most of the Shipping Companies are not efficient because they are not equipped, the worst among them all are MSC and CMA. And what baffles me most is that the government is funding Shipper’s Council, budgeting millions of Naira for them to carry out their statutory duties as the ports economic regulator, but they fail woefully in carrying out that responsibility as these shipping companies keep putting Nigerians out of business.”
According to Barr.Akpunonu, “most of them would charge you and still add what they call ” conditional demurrage”, some charge two weeks and even more; collecting your container deposit takes you more than two months. I have been experiencing that at COSCO Shipping Company. They hold your deposit for over three months; you know, Shipper’s Council has been saying that if any Shipping line moves your container to any Bonded Terminal without your consent; it should be at their own expense . But I am telling you that it is still going on unabated, and the owners are bearing the cost of what they never bargained for. It is indeed sad that Shipper’s Council cannot regulate these companies, the will to enforce any law is completely lacking. One of these terrible terminals is the one they call Kachy Care Bonded Terminal; they are complete rogues, extorting people in the name of doing business; talk about their charges and their inefficiency, I have written letters to Shipper’s Council petitioning them, and we have gone to them following the directive of Shipper’s Council, but up until now, they have been adamant. And the most annoying thing is that when you go to make your case, they say “why must Shipper’s Council send you after we have seen them”. Seen them over what ? What’s the meaning of seen them? Please we need Shipper’s Council to explain to us because we do not understand that language. And for MSC, I think it’s high time we invited the EFCC and ICPC to look into their fraudulent activities, they should come and check their records because the way and manner they defraud people is alarming and totally unacceptable. We are talking of billions of Naira here. These people are frustrating Nigerians and the authorities are seeing it getting worse by the day. It takes A.P.Moller Terminal about 10- 14 days for them to drop your container for examination, except you go and settle them . They collect between eight to ten thousand Naira per container if you want to fasten the positioning for physical examination. Unfortunately, we have Chapter executives and so on but none of them is doing anything about it. While APMT takes 10- 14 days to drop your container, they are still charging you demurrage for their own inefficiency, instead of you to sue them to claim damages for troubles they cost you because you are into contractual obligations with somebody to make that supply within two weeks and a Terminal Operator is taking that two weeks to drop your container for examination. Then you have failed on your own part, so ,where are we going from here ?”
“It baffles me when we have Association executives and none of them is talking . Some of them are benefitting from what we are going through, and unfortunately, in ANLCA, we don’t have leadership. Sometimes you hear Dr.Farinto voicing out , the president is there and my suspicion is very strong, maybe he is benefitting from these challenges; if he is not benefitting he would have done something about it. It has never been this bad since l ventured into this field.”
Another stakeholder, a freight forwarder and Chairman Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria-APFFLON, TinCan Chapter, Fwdr. Sir, Godfrey Emeka Nwosu, (RFF), said that the rot in the system has grossly affected ports operation and the Maritime industry negatively as all manner of misgivings are accepted without mounting the least resistance, it is an era of everything goes.”
” The problem we have with Shipping companies are myriad and glaring for everyone to see. Since these Shipping lines changed from the original operators to indigenous managers, our problems began. A black Shipping Line Agent knows that a typical Nigerian trader , be it importer or exporter or even contractor in business is desparete to have his goods in the market as fast as possible, they now connived with Terminal Operators of which most of them are indigenes, came up to form Ships and Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria- STOAN ; bringing the Liners and the Terminals on one Platform they call association, which was not found anywhere before . The Liners were on their own while the Terminal Operators were on their own . The Terminals were under the Management of Nigeria Ports Authority before, even after the concession in 2006. They were all independent after the concession until Vicky Haastrup, a typical indigenous Operator, Masterminded it. And since then, the entire system caught the corruption bug, extortion and exploitation became inherent in shipping and Terminal operations”.
Mr. Dom Onyeka, MD/CEO, Mudons Trust Link LTD., Customs Broker and Chairman, Association of Nigerian Customs Licensed Agents- ANLCA, Apapa Chapter, condemned the high-handedness of Shipping companies and Terminal Operators, describing it as a nagging issue. In his words,” it didn’t start today, but l must inform you that we have taken it up. We have visited CMA and Lagos and Niger, though we didn’t form a quorum. We have plans to visit MSC, APMT and Maerskline . The issue is so biting that we have almost lost faith and hope. The Shipper’s Council sometime ago, gave us assurance that they were going to talk with them, despite all assurances by Shipper’s Council, we never got any positive result. Even when Shipping companies were moving containers to Bonded Terminals without the consent of the owners, we took the complaint to Shipper’s Council and they said since we didn’t ask for that, that shipping companies should refund transfer cost,that was about two years ago , uptill now nothing like that happened. And maybe because we took them to court, that, l felt, was why they declined taking action to that effect. Are we talking of the challenges posed by NPA ETO, that has become an avenue to extort and exploit by APMT and others. It is quite unfortunate.”
“The continuous wrangling in our Association is also unfortunate. The issue before us in ANLCA is something we can sit down and resolve. Those at the top should come up to say enough is enough. I can tell you that the ANLCA squabble is part of the neglect and unnecessary showdown we are facing on daily basis in the course of ports operations because no one is really coming out strongly against these people. The ease of doing business is not working because government is not sincere in its approach. Just imagine, when we believe that goods are assessed in their values and rates of duty, someone somewhere jerked up duty rates of 40ft to 2million without taking a critical look at its attendant consequences, so long as every department involved in ports operations does things with impunity, getting it right will take us years to achieve”.
Mr. Ifeanyi Igwe of VINGOAL Agencies Nigeria Limited, Customs Brokers, and Freight Agents, testified against Shipping companies, saying,” they are the major threat that Agents are facing. Their demurrage and refusal to give us waiver, the delay in refunding container deposits, and the level of extortion is out of this world. They keep doing everything within their power to frustrate our efforts. We are asking for better service, we must not continue like this, the extortion is enough, very soon we shall arise to to take it up with Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators. TICT is our big headache for the time being. Once you route your container to the terminal, instead of allowing you take your consignment from there, they transfer it to any Terminal of their choice, and it would take up to two to three weeks for you to take delivery of that container and at the end of the day, they would demand for demurrage. We are no longer comfortable doing business with the Terminal Operator. We are asking TICT and others to do the right thing”.
Continuing, Barr. Ada Akpunonu, tongue lashed the APMT, describing them as callous and mindless. ” APMT is the worst in the list , that someone would apply for his container to be examined ? TICT would give you days and weeks and at the same time charging you. The truth is that some people will soon rise in protest to enforce their rights because enough is enough. We are talking of corruption, Shipping companies and terminal operators are the most corrupt in the whole nation particularly MSC and Maerskline. How can Maerskline deliberately make a mistake in a digit number and they would ask you to wait for confirmation from India , and you could wait up to four days, at this time and era? Not only that, demurrage would be accruing. Wake up Nigerians , please wake up, enough is enough.”
Before filing this report, calls were put across some of the staff of the shipping companies and terminal operators who declined to put up a defense as some of them did not even pick their calls. We will do our best to publish their own side of the story as soon as possible.