Customs Tackles shipping companys over empty boxes

Area Controller, Ikorodu Lighter Terminal of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Nasir Ahmed, has given an ultimatum of one month to shipping companies whose empty containers are long overdue to be removed from the terminal or he will have them auctioned.

Nasir gave this ultimatum last Wednesday at a meeting between licensed customs agents operating at the terminal, representatives of various shipping companies, and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal’s operator, Sapid Agencies Limited.

He said that he has written to and has received approval from the Customs Headquarters to evacuate the terminal of the 195 empty containers he met on ground on assuming office as the Customs Area Controller September last year.

“I gave a grace period of two weeks and I am going to give you a grace period of one month because I know the logistics involved in moving out empty containers. I can understand the problems of the shipping lines, I can understand the problems of the terminal operators but I cannot do their jobs for them. They have to do their jobs,” he said.

At the meeting initiated by the customs agents to address their complaints of Sapid Agencies Limited referring them to shipping companies to get Delivery Orders before their containers are released and the shipping companies, consequently, demanding for demurrage charges on the containers before they are released, Nasir said that there is an urgent need to resolve the issue of Delivery Orders as operators at the terminal, especially the shipping companies, will continue to be disadvantaged if a compromise is not reached.

He said: “When there are issues like this somebody within the system here is benefiting from these issues. The main operators themselves are not benefitting because, the shipping lines, as long as your container is on ground here you are not making money. It doesn’t make business sense to you to have your container here a year, two years. I know the shipping companies want to have their empty containers back because it is big money to them.”

Chairman Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) of the chapter, during his speech at the meeting, lamented that except for Maersk Line which only requires that refundable deposits be made before delivery of the containers are taken, other shipping companies insists that agents pay demurrage charges before they are given the Delivery Orders.

A representative of CMA-CGM shipping company at the meeting, Tamara Jeibor, said that the demand of demuragge charges by the shipping company arose from the company’s observation that not all containers transferred to the terminal are overtime containers.

She said that it has also been observed that some of the containers classified as overtime are not auctioned before release from the terminal which, according to her, is why the company demands that Sapid receives its delivery orders on every of its container before to ensure the safety and return of their containers back to the terminal.