(Report by Udeme Clement):
The President, Shippers’ Association of Lagos State (SAL), Rev Jonathan Nicol, has said that
one aspect of ripping off Shippers and Importers in Nigeria is through Groupage shipments.
According to him, “The Shipping Lines Agents in Nigeria are academical in handling of Groupage Containers.
Groupage means when two to three consignees, or more put in their cargoes into 1×20′ or 1×40′ Container as FCL.”
He explained; “Freight charges are paid fully from Port of loading to Port of Destination in foreign currency.
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 has 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”.
The SAL President pointed out; “It is even cheaper to clear the container direct, if all the Consignees agree.
The Master Bill Lading is normally consigned to the ship’s local Agent while the House Bill Ladings shows owners of each cargo in the Container.
“We have more Groupage issues mainly from the Chinese Shipping Agencies handling Groupage Containers in Nigeria.
No wonder the Nigerian Shippers’ Council recently waded into the Shippers complaints after one and half years of economic torture from the same company.”
His words; “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 (NPA), had warehouses inside the Ports and Containers were 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. There are no aspect of clearance of Groupage Containers to attract additional cost to be paid in Foreign currency. It must stop”.
He went on: “On storage charges, the bills must be commensurate with the number of days the cargo is stuffed in the warehouse and not the arrival date of the vessel.
The consignee should not be subjected to excessive transfer charges from the designated Port to the receiving warehouses.
“All charges for shipment of the cargo are paid upfront before shipment. It is like someone travelling to England via Lufthansa Airlines. All Freight paid and passengers luggage marked London. The transshipment therefore is Frankfurt. Luggages meant for final destruction are loaded into the Aircraft for final destination. The owners of cargo not expected to pay additional cost for handling. It is the same thing with Groupage cargo.
“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 collected 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. Outside of that, it is a sin to rip off the Shippers.
“This issue must be dealt with in a forum for discussion with some of the Groupage operators in Nigeria, the Nigerian Shippers Council, Shippers and Importers.
“Alternatively, Importers should be paying Freight charges in Nigerian Currency to Ship owners. We have a right to protect our sovereignty. Afterall, we are one big family.”