In a move that would save importers billions of naira yearly in demurrage charges and reduce the cost of doing business in the nationa��s maritime sector, the Nigerian Shippersa�� Council (NSC) has asked shipping companies to extend demurrage-free period from five to 21 days.
A�A�A�The request, if granted, will also make Nigerian ports more competitive, as the country presently has the lowest demurrage-free period in West and Central Africa, with neighbouring Benin Republic (10) and Ghana (eight) enjoying higher free days.
A�A�A�Speaking during his visit to some shipping companies in Apapa, including Maersk, Grimaldi and CMA CGM shipping lines, the NSC Executive Secretary, Mr. Hassan Bello, urged them to extend the free period to 21 days to accommodate circumstances beyond the control of importers, agents and transporters.
A�A�A�Bello added that clearing agents and importers had been complaining of slow refund of demurrage and other charges over little dent and scratch.
A�A�A�According to him, a�?there are issues of container deposit that we have to look at and the constant complaint by shippers over failure to return containers, and agreement to refund same within four days.
A�A�A�a�?Mostly, ita��s not the fault of the shippers. The council is concerned about the container regime and how you abide by the return of deposits within four days.a�?
A�A�A�Bello further urged the shipping companies to de-emphasis demurrage and be considerate, mindful of their relationship with their customers.
He added: a�?During gridlock, when the port is inaccessible, what can you offer in terms of consideration?
A�A�A�a�?You should have consideration for shippers, such as 21 days free period, else there will be gridlock upon gridlock in the port area. Look into it and by extension the 21 days free time to accommodate circumstances that are not anyonea��s making.
A�A�A�a�?The charges must be according to services rendered, and according to what people know that have been rendered and, as a big player, we expect you to give general consideration to your customers.a�?
A�A�A�In his response, the Maersk Line Director of Customer Service, Central, West Africa, Razak Ngula, said that about 1,600 containers belonging to the shipping line were still with customers.
A�A�A�According to him, the purpose of container deposit is not to recover the value of the container, just as the company ensures that refunds are done smoothly and within three working days.