FG insists on 3% freight levy on empty containers

The Federal Government has said that multinational shipping companies operating in Nigeria must pay the mandatory three per cent freight levy on imports coming into Nigeria and export going out of the country on the movement of empty containers.

The government had recently approved a downward review of the three per cent benchmark levy on freight imposed on all import and export goods in and out of the country as part of measures to lessen the burden on the shipping community Section 15 of the Nigerian Maritime and Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Act 2007 provides that the agency shall be funded from three percent of gross freight on all international inbound and outbound cargo from ships or shipping companies operating in Nigeria, among others.

Director of Commercial Shipping of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Mrs. Dabney Shall-Holma, who spoke in an interview in Lagos, disclosed that when a shipping company is lifting its own empty containers out of Nigeria, it is not expected to pay the three percent freight levy because it does not charge any freight on them.

She, however, insisted that when a shipping company is moving empty containers belonging to other shipping firms, it must pay the three percent levy on freight being paid to it for moving the empty containers.

“Freight is the cost of the value that you pay for carrying a cargo from one point to another because container in itself is a means of transport but when it is empty, it becomes a cargo and when you are moving it from one point to another, you must pay a charge because the shipping firm that is moving the empty containers charge freight on them”, she had argued.

She noted that the Council, NIMASA and the Nigerian Ports Authority have always insisted that the shipping companies load empty containers out of the ports as they also take exports out of the country to check the recurring incidence of port congestion at the ports.

The Federal Ministry of Transport’s had in 2011 issued a regulation, which made it mandatory for these shipping companies to load empty containers on board their vessels as they lift the few exports out of the country to reduce the pressure at the staking areas in the various seaports. This regulation was designed to check congestion at both the port terminals and port access roads as the limited spaces meant for laden containers were before now occupied by empty containers, which causes congestion at the ports.

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