Translator:
Ngba Digital Time

Exporters bemoan excessive charges by shipping companies

Exporters have raised questions about the recent increase in handling charges on cargo by shipping companies.

The exporters are seeking reversal of the charges, describing them as arbitrary and a disincentive to export adding that it runs contrary to the government’s objective of raising revenue from non-oil export sector.

According to the exporters, the shipping companies recently hiked the handling charges on 20 feet container   from N4000 to N40, 000 while the charges on 40 feet container were increased from N8, 500 to N68, 000.

In an interview with our correspondent, the Head, Small and Medium Enterprises Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Jon Kachikwu, said he questioned the charges when his agent returned an invoice that showed a 300 per cent increase in the charges on his containers.

He said, “I was surprised when my agent brought back an invoice showing an increase in the handling charges on my containers. The increase has raised my cost of exportation. What we gathered was that they were doing this because import had reduced and the revenue from that sector had dwindled so they were trying to fill the gap by overbilling exporters.

“I feel the government needs to do something about the situation but the way it is, it appears the government is only paying lip service to the export sector and the issue of economic diversification because no matter how much we complain and cry about the arbitrary charges at the ports, the government is not saying or doing anything to help.”

Another non-oil exporter and the Publicity Secretary of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sotonye Anga, said the increase in the handling charges was a disincentive to exports.

He said, “The increase in charges is coming at a bad time because this is a time when government is trying to increase its revenue through non-oil exports.  The cost of exporting goods has become too high while there is no improvement in service.

“The charges should be reversed because there are no forms of incentives for exporters in this country. We do not know if they are trying to encourage or kill exports through all these arbitrary charges.”

Responding, the President, Shippers Association of Lagos, Mr. Jonathan Nicol, explained that the situation was caused by the scarcity of foreign exchange in the country adding that the shipping companies had been told by the government that they would have to source their forex independent of the official forex window.

He said, “Shipping companies were told by the government that they would not be given forex and so they (shipping companies) were left with the option of sourcing forex from the parallel market.

“In order to get the value of what they had sourced in dollars, they had to increase the naira value so that they could pay back their principal.”

Nicol agreed that the situation had left exporters in a very disadvantaged position making it impossible for them to compete with their counterparts from other countries whose goods might turn out to be cheaper than their own.

He added, “In addition to the handling charges, the exporters still have to contend with the cost of shipment. Also, the containers are most times left on the trucks for up to seven days before shipment and the exporters will have to pay demurrage on the trucks.

“We have approached government on the issues facing the sector and we believe that the government should look at ways of properly harnessing the maritime sector because if that is done, it can generate a lot of revenue.”

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