With discrepancies on refund of container deposits accounting for more than 80 percent of complaints it receives from shippers, the Nigerian Shippers Council is seeking a review of the terms for refund of deposits on containers.
Already, its management has begun advocacy visits to major shipping companies and their representatives in Nigeria.
On delivery of containerised goods, consignees are required to deposit a fixed amount of mney with the shipping company which is refundable on return of the containers in good condition.
However, there has been numerous complaints from shippers bordering delays in refund of the deposit, deductions from the deposit based on alleged demurrage prior to their return and outright forfeiture.
Mr. Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary of the NSC who led top executives of the agency to some of the shipping agencies in Lagos, said a free of the administration of the deposit is imperative to build a better balance between shipping companies and users of shipping services.
Bello condemned the situation whereby shippers are compelled to pay for demurrage incurred in the process of returning the containers as the poor state of the port access roads as well as the limited space inside the terminals have made the task of returning empty containers very challenging.
Visiting the management of Grimaldi Shipping Nigeria Limited, Bello told the company the realities on the ground have made a review of the processes inevitable.
"Most of the shippers will want to return these containers but they have nowhere to return them and the demurrage starts counting to a point where they forfeit their deposit. This is under circumstances where they do not have control,” Hassan told Ascanio Russo, the Managing Director of Grimaldi Shipping.
"That indemnity by freight forwarders may not be totally legal but we have to look at it. The whole idea is to create a balance where your interests are protected and also the interest of the shippers."
In his response, Russo said that the shipping line paid refunds within three days after the application for refund has been received and after ascertaining that the containers are returned in good working condition.
While explaining the level of automation of the Agency, Russo maintained that all clearance processes have been automated but regretted that clearing agents still cluster around the port.
Similarly, the director, Customer Service, Central and West Africa of Maersk Line, Razak Ngula, said about 1,600 containers belonging to the shipping line were still being held by shippers.
He stated that the container deposit is not to recover the value of containers but to encourage consignees to return them. He said the company refunds deposits within three days to its customers.
According to him, "1,600 boxes are still not returned and they are needed for voyage. The deposit is not to recover value of a container. We ensure that the refund process is smooth and can be done within three working days".
PIX: Executive Secretary Nigerian Shippers Council Barrister Hassan Bello (R) and the Managing Director, Grimaldi Shipping Line ,Mr. Ascanio Russo during a meeting in Lagos yesterday