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Apapa gridlock: Stakeholders seek cancellation of container deposits

Apapa gridlock: Stakeholders seek cancellation of container deposits

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Anna Okon

Port users have called for the cancellation of container deposit to lessen the cost of business associated with the current gridlock along the port access routes.

Container deposit is paid by importers or clearing agents before moving containers out of a shipping terminal. The deposit serves as a guarantee that the operator will return the container in good condition.

Our correspondent learnt that operators deposit as much as N200, 000 per 40-foot container within Lagos and N400, 000 outside Lagos. Twenty-foot container deposit is N100, 000 within Lagos and N200, 000 outside Lagos.

This is in addition to shipping company charge of N170, 000 and terminal charge of N180, 000 as well as automatic demurrage of N100,000 and other charges from Customs and clearing agents.

The Secretary, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, Haulage Section, Mr Godwin Ikeji, told our correspondent that with the abolition of the deposits, a lot of things would change for the better for operators.

He said, “We have been advocating that the container deposit should be abolished for years. If the deposit is abolished, the shipping agents will be forced to go in search of their containers and the unnecessary delay at the ports may even reduce.

“We are in an emergency situation and everyone needs to understand and cooperate. It is not normal when someone spends three weeks on the road just trying to return containers.”

He also said, “The container deposit puts a lot of pressure on businesses who rush to the ports to return empty containers with the hope of getting their deposits back. Most of the trucks lined up on Lagos roads are laden with empty containers and this is the reason for the gridlock.

“If the deposit is abolished, the pressure will reduce and people can relax and return containers at their convenience.”

The Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Osita Chukwu, also spoke in support of the abolition of the deposit, saying that business owners spent millions of naira on it.

“Removing the deposit is the best thing that can happen to this country at this time. It will ease a lot of tension and reduce the cost of doing business. I personally part with millions of naira on container deposit and that cost of course will be transferred to the final consumer,” he said.

In 2014 before the commencement of the rehabilitation of the Apapa/Wharf road, importers were reported to lose N2bn weekly on container deposits.

In April, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council made moves to stop the payment of the deposit.

While on a working visit to three shipping lines, Grimaldi Shipping, Maersk Line and CMA CGM, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said he would introduce a new container regime with a view to abolishing the collection of container deposits by shipping companies in Nigeria.

Stakeholders have however said that the deposits have continued. “They have not stopped collecting. I paid N200, 000 deposit for 40-foot container this week,” Chukwu told our correspondent.

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