Confusion at seaports over NPA’s 21-days port charges waiver
• Operatives flouting directive ― Agents
There is widespread confusion at the nation’s seaports over the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) directive to terminal operators and shipping companies to suspend collection of demurrage and storage charges for 21-days in order to .it the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on port operations.
This is even as clearing agents have accused terminal operators and shipping companies of flouting the directive while the port operatives have insisted that the directive needs to be defined.
Speaking to maritime journalists on Wednesday, the Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, accused the terminal operators and the shipping companies of flouting the 21-Days waiver directive of the NPA.
According to the ANLCA Vice President, “The NPA wrote to all the terminal operators that from on the 23rd of March, 2020, terminal operators and shipping companies should grant a 21-days waiver on demurrages and storage charges at the ports.
“We have copies of the letters written to the terminal operators and shipping companies by the NPA dated April 2, 2020. However, despite the letters written to the terminal operators and the shipping companies, nothing as changed at the ports.
“Clearing agents are still paying demurrage charges and storage charges at the ports. It is I’m that we let the world know that the operators have refused to comply with NPA’s directive on waiver of shipping and demurrage charges.”
In a related development, the General Manager of Five Star Logistics Limited, one of the terminal operators at Tin-An Island Port, Mr Wolfgang Schneider said that the port charges waiver relief measure was a good intention by the NPA but needed to be defined.
In his words, “The rent-free period has to be re-defined because people may take advantage of it. The waiver period has to be defined because, for instance, cargoes that have stayed for more than six months in our terminal cannot benefit from the gesture.
“The time is not too long and we are ready to work as long as we can to make the economy working.”
Recall that the NPA had in a letter dated 2nd April 2020 with reference number HQ/GM/MRS/OP.L1/Vol ii/347 signed by the General Manager, Monitoring and Regulatory Services, Ugo Madubuike for the Managing Director, directed the terminal operators to provide relief for businesses by suspending rent charges on consignments from March 23 for the next 21-Days.
According to the letter titled, “Relief Measures To Port Users Due To Outbreak of COVID-19” directed to the Managing Director of Port and Terminal Multiservice Limited (PTML), the authority said the rent-free period should start from Monday 23rd March 2020 for an initial period of 21 days.
It reads, “Following the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in Iine with the global trend of providing reliefs to businesses for the benefit of the general populace, you are hereby directed to suspend rent charges on consignments with effect from Monday 23rd March 2020 for an initial period of 21 days.
“The Authority recognises the financial implication of the policy on your terminal and is considering a shift in our operational charges to ameliorate the situation.
“This is presented in line with the objectives of the Ease-Of-Doing-Busines, as well as the sensitivity of the Authority to the current situation and sustenance of national economic activities and for immediate compliance.”