Chief Peter Tompang MD Kipelo Int. Limited.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The recent increase in charges by the terminal operators and many other issues are generating so much uproar within the Maritime sub-sector of the Nigerian economy as various practitioners and sectorial bodies are kicking against the increase, siting various reasons especially the additional costs of doing business at the ports, the traffic situation and such issues like the lack of storage and other facilities for the purpose of storing empty containers.
We spoke with a freight forwarder with a long history of experience and one who is not afraid to point out the areas where the people in charge have either elected or omitted not to do their jobs and one who also proffers solutions. Mr. Peter Tompang is a fiery, outspoken individual who is not happy with the direction that activities within the Maritime space in general and the freight forwarding practice in particular are taking.
In an exclusive interview, he spoke deep-heartedly about what he terms the sorry state of the sub-sector.
Mr. Tompang started by admonishing the terminal operators as he said that this is not the right time to start bringing on an increase in charges noting that the Nigerian economy is in very bad shape right now and we all know the kind of domino effects that any increase at any place or product will have on the general population. He also noted that the high cost of doing business is the major reason why the land locked countries who were hitherto doing business with us have been driven away and have taken their businesses to other West African countries, those who have seaports. He explained that they as freight forwarders have been suffering so much from the incidents of business flight as a lot of importers have taken to shipping their cargoes to the Lome and other ports outside Nigeria and this is added costs for them while bringing in these cargoes into Nigeria. He says that sometimes it takes between 3 to 4 months to transfer these cargoes which are also sometimes seasonal goods that should have expedited transfer treatment, but the processes of transfer to Nigeria are almost always traumatic with the added costs and stress.
Mr. Tompang asked a rhetorical question “Do you know that terminal operators start charging demurrage on a single container as soon as the evaluation is done and when all of the containers captured in the bill of laden except that one have not been transfered to the terminal?” he mentioned MSC shipping lines and Sapids 1 as major culprits in terms of giving excessive charges and the terrible way that they treat Nigerians. He admonished that they should wait to discharge all containers at the bonded terminals before they start charging demurrage. “We feel cheated by this practice”, he complained. The practice of not providing the needed holding bays for empty containers and having trucks act as holding bays and not admitting them into the Ports area and having the container discharged is a terrible practice. Some of the terminal operators also have logistics arms and usually give preference to their own trucks in terms of gaining access into the terminals to discharge either the cargoes or the empty containers and these acts compound the chaos. The terminal operators are only interested in exploiting Nigerians through various illegal charges especially the charging of demurrage on containers.
The Customs and Excise Management Act empowers the Nigerian Customs Service to charge Shipping Companies for any empty container not returned to the place of origin after three months of having the container in the country, but this law has not been put into practice as everywhere is littered with empty containers. Though, again sometimes the shipping companies do also sell some of these empty containers to private individuals without paying the necessary duty on them and the Customs should be aware of this act.
“You are supposed to the pay duties on the containers once they exceed their grace period, but this is not done, they are not living up to their responsibilities”.
He lamented that their associations have asked the various Customs area commands to act on the issue of these empty containers littering everywhere, but that they keep saying that they need to take directives from the headquarters in Abuja and you would want to ask if it is the headquarters that give them the directive to act on all other day to day activities within and around the Ports. Why do we have area commands and zonal commands?, the Customs should do their jobs really”. The cargoes are supposed to be seized once they become overtime cargos after 28 days and move them to government warehouses, but this has also not been put into practice.
Mr. Tompang also said that stakeholders have also been having various meetings with the terminal operators, the shippers council, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigeria Customs Service, but that in the end, they are usually found to “Be sleeping on duty” as they have not developed the spine to impose their authorities and effectively throw the book at the offending terminal operators and shipping companies. He stressed that the regulatory bodies seem not to want to do their job as far as straightening the shipping companies and terminal operators is concerned. “These shipping companies and terminal operators are only interested in milking importers and freight forwarders, the activities within the ports should be on 24 hour basis so that the place can be effectively used to develop all economic activities”. He added.
Mr. Tompang said that the operations within and around the Ports have become so cumbersome and so needs a streamlined solution in order to reduce the level of stress that one has to go through while carrying out his or her legitimate activity within and around the Ports area.
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