NPA extends relief period, NSC directs refund of demurrage charges

Sequel to Nigeria’s extension of lockdown in some states in the efforts to stem the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has directed all terminal operators to extend the suspension of all applicable storage fees on consignments (demurrage) for another 14 days.

The extension, effective April 13, 2020, is in recognition of the pressure that the crisis imposes on businesses, the agency’s responsibility to relieve customers of this burden, and as well attain the Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business objective at this trying period, the agency explained.

In a statement by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Adams Jatto, the agency assured that compensations to terminal operators would be as spelt out in its April 8, 2020 letter to them, but also warned promptly punish any form of non-compliance with the directive.

Similarly, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has directed shipping companies operating in the country to refund charges collected as demurrages from March 30, 2020 when the lockdown in Lagos State commenced.

This follows its directive Friday to the shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges during the period of the Covid-19 lockdown and “strictly applies to cargo discharged at the terminals from the March 30, 2020,” a statement from the agency read in part.

Therefore, “demurrage charges during this period should be refunded to the consignee or his authorised agent. Suspension of demurrage during this period is an incentive for owners to accelerate the process of taking delivery of their cargo.

“This suspension of demurrage charges is not an excuse to delay or abandon cargo at the ports. Erring shippers will be sanctioned in addition to having to pay the demurrage due on their cargoes.”

The council explained that its action was motivated by the fact that due to lack of public transportation, inadequate banking and limited services occasioned by a reduced workforce in view of the pandemic, many shippers were unable to take delivery of their cargo.

It lamented that the “services rendered by some terminals and shipping lines are slow and sometimes non-functional, which encourages the clustering of agents at entrance of their premises. Some of these companies do not have functional helplines and customer relations units.”

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