Freighters unhappy over shipping firms withholding container deposits

Edward Akrong

Freight Forwarders at Port of Tema have expressed displeasure over withholding of container deposits by shipping lines. A container deposit is a specific amount of money that the importer is made to pay as a guarantee for return of the container after goods in it have been discharged.

Felix Kwesi Anning, a Freight Forwarder with His Excellency Shipping Company Limited, stressed in an interview with the B&FT that these shipping lines are illegally withholding monies as well as enriching themselves from such funds – running into several thousands of cedis.

He said he paid an amount of GH¢1,600 deposit for a 40-foot reefer container that had not gone on demurrage; but the shipping line has failed to return his deposit since December 2020. He is therefore appealing for government to ensure these firms release the funds which have been held for several weeks.

President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Edward Akrong, expressed concern as to why the shipping lines would receive money from agents on behalf of the importers but refuse to refund directly to the clearing agent.

According to him, the procedure is such that the shipping lines take varied amounts for containers, and when the containers are returned and haven’t gone on demurrage then they refund the money. But that is not the case currently.

He explained that sometimes it takes these shipping lines between six to eight weeks or more to refund the money, and even at that half of the money is forcefully taken out without any reason or explanation.

“There is a whole issue with shipping lines, and it is time they are called to book. There has to be some form of regulation – if not, they are also going to compete with the duty we pay at the port. The sad part is that with the advent of containerisation, they were allowed to charge certain fees (administrative charges). Now that the period is past, they have not scrapped the administrative charges and keep on charging – and it has even been increasing,” he said.

He described the situation as a mess, and appealed for oversight agencies and the Ministry of Transport to regulate the shipping lines to reduce costs of doing business at port.

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