Why Nigerian importers may lose N34.12bn over Covid-19 lockdown

There is no doubt about the effects of the lockdown order by President Muhammadu on businesses across the affected states and the FCT, in fact, importers in Nigeria may lose as much as N34.12 billion to demurrage and port storage charges on about 75,000 TEUs imported into the country within the 14 days lockdown period.
Although, the Nigeria Customs Service and the terminal operators keep their operations active, the international shipping lines and the banks have closed their shops for the 14 days being the period the Federal Government of Nigeria has placed Lagos state under lockdown over coronavirus concerns.

It is was, however, gathered that  major shipping lines  coming to Nigeria, which refused to open their offices for importers to clear their containers include Maersk Line, Cosco, PIL, OOCL and Safmarine. The shipping lines have refused to operate until after 14 days, beginning from Tuesday, March 30.

Importers will pay N20,500 per TEU as demurrage to Maersk Line, while the other shipping lines charge N18,000 demurrage daily after the first five days.

Average storage fee per TEU stands at N12,000 per day after the initial five days.

With Nigeria’s annual container throughput averaging at 1.8m TEUs, analysis, however, show that no less than 75,000 containers would be charged N455,000 for demurrage and storage fees for the period of 14 days, leaving a total of N34.12 billion if the shipping lines keep their offices locked for the period as they have said.

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The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had directed that terminal operators and shipping lines forfeit storage and demurrage fees for 21 days beginning from March 30, but customs brokers have reported that the operators have defied the NPA directive.

Following this, the country’s largest association of Customs brokers told business a.m that it is insisting on its earlier demand for a “force majeure” to be activated at the seaports in Lagos, which currently receives 90 per cent of the cargoes destined to the country.

An importer who spoke on this development said shipping lines were not available to issue debit notes and banks were not available to receive tariff payments after Customs had issued PAAR, while both demurrage and storage charges read on daily.

Meanwhile, operators have called on the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, who supervises the federal government ease of doing business initiative to call the shipping lines to order and take action to see to seamless operation at the seaport.

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