The Nigerian Government is rallying Shippers Councils’/stakeholders across the West and Central African regions to end arbitrary and high shipping charges especially from foreign shippers operating within the sub-region.

In a keynote address at the meeting of experts on cost of the Union of African Shippers Council/expanded meeting of the standing committee No 1 and mini-sensitization seminar on AfCFTA held on Tuesday in Abuja, the Minister of Transportation Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi told the delegates high shipping charges within West and Central African countries must end.

Represented by Auwal Suleiman, Director Maritime Services, Federal Ministry of Transportation, the minister also tasked the committee to set up a meeting to work on ending high shipping charges.

He said the committee of experts should beam their searchlight on the incidence of unfair shipping surcharges and high local shipping charges on the National economies of West and Central Africa.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria is aware of the unreasonably high cost of transportation of goods to and from the sub-regional ports due to high freight rates, poor infrastructure and arbitrary surcharges such as war risk surcharges, port recovery surcharge, port congestion surcharge, peak season surcharge, Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF), Currency Adjustment Factor (CAF), extra insurance risk surcharge et al,” Mr. Amaechi said.

“I am equally aware that the member councils of the Union are concerned about the lack of consultation, timing, and cost structure of these surcharges,” he further stated.

“These surcharges are mostly unilateral and at times new nomenclature introduced by the multinational shipping companies/lines without consultation with the sub-regional authorities or the shippers,” he noted adding that “the process of the introduction of these surcharges lack transparency and may not be based on verifiable and available statistics. These surcharges amount to huge sums of capital flight from the sub-regional economies and thereby depleting the limited foreign reserve.”

Commenting at the event, the host and the Executive Secretary, the Nigerian Shippers Council Mr. Emmanuel Jime said: “We cannot continue to remain at the mercy of the foreign shipping lines to determine the fate of our trade and transport through the imposition of unreasonable charges and surcharges on our economies”.

“There is need to scrutinize every detail involved in determining the cost of services rendered at our ports, make scientific comparisons with other ports of the world and arrive at acceptable rates for mutually beneficial transactions,” he stated.

According to him, “it is time for us to rise to the occasion by leveraging on relevant technologies to increase efficiency, advise our various governments on required policies and regulations to boost our trade and transport sector and discourage the continuous implementation of processes that contribute to delays and high cost of doing business at our ports”.

He noted that “the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2020 report shows that the total trade for Africa was about $386 Billion and the West and Central Africa accounted for more than 36% of this figure. This reflects the importance of the sub-region in the economy of the African continent, but I believe we can do better if we critically address our areas of inefficiencies.”

Mr Jime said “the UASC has a big role to play in promoting the implementation of AFCFTA to the benefit of her member countries. As we are all aware, there is a huge imbalance in trade between Africa and the rest of the world. We need to correct this anomaly through aggressive sensitization and putting in place relevant processes and infrastructure to make the trade within the sub-region easier and by extension to the entire continent.”

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