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UN raises alarm that surging freight rates are pushing up import prices

—–as shipping lines are making mega profits
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has raised the alarm that rising freight rates are threatening to push up global import prices by 11% by 2023 while shipping lines post record profits for the third quarter, according to the UN reports.

The report warned that the high freight prices if sustained, will have a knock-on effect on import and consumer price levels.

The report titled the Review of Maritime Transport, says freight rates are expected to remain high, fuelled by continued strong demand against a backdrop of growing supply uncertainty and concerns about the efficiency of transport systems and port operations.

The average price for a 40-foot container stands at US$9,146.41, according to shipping consultancy Drewry’s World Container Index. The benchmark decreased 0.5% last week but remains 238% higher than a year ago. Drewry expects rates to remain steady this week.

The report comes as container lines are booking hefty profits. Last week, French shipping line CMA CGM reported an eye-watering profit of US$5.6bn for the third quarter, up from US$567mn for the same period last year.

It is a similar story at other major carriers; Maersk, for example, notched up a profit of US$5.5bn for Q3 – a five-fold increase on the same period last year.

“Ocean performance was driven by high rates in an exceptional market during which we kept growing our long-term contract business, thus guaranteeing reliable transportation to our customers,” said Maersk CEO Søren Skou in the company’s financial report.

In what they said was an attempt at calming the market and inflation fears, shipping companies moved to freeze spot rate increases earlier this year and shift to longer-term contracts.

However, experts were skeptical of the impact of such measures. “In other words, setting a cap on spot rates is a different way of saying that a higher willingness to pay on spot is not necessarily what gets you space on the ship. And, of course, if the market is at peak anyway there is nothing lost in implementing such a cap,” Lars Jensen, a shipping container specialist, wrote on LinkedIn at the time.

Steve Saxon, a partner at McKinsey, said in a briefing last week that longer-term contracts are likely to become more common and this will help stabilise the market. He added that shipping rates may “normalise” in the first half of 2022: “When we say normalise, we don’t see rates likely to fall back down to the levels seen in 2019.” In a less optimistic scenario in which there is prolonged congestion at ports or further Covid outbreaks, rates will remain elevated next year, he said.

The potential effect of high freight rates on consumer and import prices varies by country groupings. UNCTAD suggests small island developing states or SIDS, and least developed countries (LDCs) are most at risk of higher prices because they depend more on the international trade system for goods.

The research shows SIDS are facing a 24.2% hike in import price levels, while LDCs could be lumped with an 8.7% rise.

Meanwhile, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) face an import price increase of just over 3%, with the global average standing at nearly 11%.

“The impact is generally greater in smaller economies. Thus, in Estonia consumer prices would rise by 3.7% and in Lithuania by 3.9% compared with only 1.2% in the United States and 1.4 per cent in China,” states the report.

“This partly reflects their greater ‘import openness’ – the ratio of imports to GDP – which is typically higher in smaller economies – 55% in Lithuania and 60% in Estonia, compared with 11% in the United States and 15% in China.”

The findings also indicate that sustained high shipping rates would not only impact exports and imports, as well as production and consumer prices, but also the prospects for short and medium-term economic recovery from the pandemic. Governments including those of China, the US and Vietnam are “worried” about this and have raised concerns about shipping companies, UNCTAD says. An investigation into carriers has also been launched by competition authorities in Australia.

Elsewhere, UNCTAD’s report predicts that annual growth in maritime trade between 2022 and 2026 will slow to 2.4%, compared with 2.9% over the past two decades. It also states the pandemic has accelerated maritime “megatrends” such as digitalisation and sustainability that are set to transform the industry over the longer term.

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Prices of cooking gas to crash as federal government exempts LPG, allied products from Customs duty,VAT

 The Federal government has directed that imported Liquefied Petrolium Gas(Cooking gas) and all its allied equipment like cylinders should be excepted from the payment of Customs duty and Valu-Added Tax(VAT).
This directive is expected to crash the galloping prices of the product which is being sold between N950 to N1200 per 1 kg
The Ministry of Finance disclosed this in a letter (dated November 28, 2023) to the Special Adviser to the President on Energy; the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); and the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
According to the ministry, the exemption aligned with President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to enhance Nigeria’s investment climate, and promote clean cooking practices.
“In line with His Excellency, President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to improving the investment climate in Nigeria, increasing the supply of LPG to meet local demand, reducing market prices and promoting clean cooking practices, I hereby affirm Presidential directive dated July 29, 2022, with reference number PRES/88/MPR/99,” the letter reads.
“Accordingly, the importation of LPG utilising HS Codes 2711.12.00.00, 2711.13.00.00 and 2711.19.00.00 is exempt from Import Duty and Value-Added Tax. Consequently, the Importation of LPG shall incur a 0% duty rate and 0% VAT rate, effective immediately.”
The ministry instructed the NCS and FIRS to comply with the directive pending its official gazetting.   \
Also, the ministry directed the NCS to comply with the presidential directive, dated July 29, 2022, and withdraw all debit notes issued to petroleum marketers who have imported LPG “using codes 2711. and 2711.13.00.00 from August 26, 2019, to the present date”.
Other items exempted from VAT and duty payment are LPG cylinders, LPG cascades, gas leak detectors, steel pipes, steel valves and fittings, LPG dispensers, gas generators, LPG trucks, among others.
Before now, 7.5 per cent VAT was slammed on the product which made its prices in the market to hit the roof.
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Maritime media charges federal government on disbursement of controversial CVFF

President Tinubu
The Eyewitness Reporter
Worried by the stalemated disbursement of the controversial Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) which has lingered for so long, the League of Maritime Editors (LOME) has urged President Ahmed Tinubu to expedite action on the release of the funds to trigger the development of indigenous shipping industry.
The group also called for urgent rehabilitation of collapsed critical port infrastructure at the nation’s seaports.
The President of LOME,  Timothy Paul Okorocha, made these calls at the League’s 25th anniversary held in Lagos on Wednesday, with the theme ‘Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential in Marine & Blue Economy’,
While congratulating President Bola Tinubu for the further unbundling of the Ministry of Transportation and the establishment of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, Okorocha appealed to the President to exercise the required political will to push further by ensuring that the routine talk about the rehabilitation of collapsed critical port infrastructure receives urgent executive attention.
“As development partners, the League looks forward to the effective participation of the respective agencies in the current administration’s renewed agenda template; and wants to see the Nigerian Ports Authority move away from the ritual of endless talk and lamentations into doing the needful, the reconstruction of broken down asset and infrastructure,” he said.
Also worried by the lingering delayed disbursement of the  CVFF, the League further urged President Ahmed Tinubu to provide the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, and his ministry, the needed impetus to bring to an end, the unending rat race of the disbursement of the CVFF, saying that the fund established since 2003 would jump-start a new lease of life for the capacity development of indigenous ship-owners.
He added that this would enable Nigeria to participate meaningfully in seaborne trade; especially with the proposed commencement of the implementation policy of the blue economy.
The LOME President noted the genuine struggle by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and its leadership, especially under the present administration to disburse the CVFF but observed that the efforts suffered political disruptions.
“As insiders, the League over the years has seen the genuine struggle by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and its leadership, especially under the present administration to disburse the CVFF in its commitment to grow local capacity building, but observe the otherwise disruptive tendencies within the field of political play.
“We appeal to Mr. President to use his good offices to prevail on the relevant authorities to respond to the needs of our industry as there can be no better time than now,” he said.
 Speaking on the theme of the conference, Doctor Charles Okoroefe of Nigeria Maritime University also hailed the unbundling of the transportation ministry which he said was a misnomer.
He has decried the untapped potential of marine resources, especially in the area of tourism in Nigeria, regretting that marine tourism is lacking in Nigeria unlike in Gambia and the Caribbean where marine tourism is a major source of income where marine tourism rakes in billions of dollars.
“Egypt made about $14 billion in tourism from the Nile in 2022,” he added.
“People troop in into the Bahamas. Do we (Nigeria) have the potential? Yes. But the question is how prepared are we?” he queried.
He stressed that marine tourism is a solution in terms of job creation and that the time has come for Nigeria to progress from potential to actuality.
“So talking about job creation. All of these elements I mentioned are potential areas for job creation because it is a major issue in Nigeria today.
” A lot of young people are jobless. Meanwhile, we have an area that is green where a lot of jobs can be created.
“So I think we have to look at that potential area of driving our marine and Blue Economy,” Okoroefe stated.
He also called on the Ministry of Marine & Blue Economy to synergise with the Ministry of Agriculture to harness the potential of the sea.
 “So, I believe the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy has to synergise with the Ministry of Agriculture and also harness exotic seafood for export,” he explained, saying we cannot be depending on imports alone.
He urged the ministry to look at other fundamental seafood we have in excess that we can process through the rivers for export.
The marine expert regretted that Nigeria still imports palm oil from Malaysia, the same people who came to Nigeria to learn how to plant seedlings and today Nigeria is importing palm oil from Malaysia, “these are exportable items. So I believe the Ministry of Marine has to do a lot.
“With the Ministry of Agriculture for instance, with the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Tourism, these are resources that we need to address in order for us to develop and come out of potential to thrive. On our ocean and marine resources, we’ve been talking endlessly.”
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Tantita refutes, describes  allegation of oil theft by Navy as libelous, defamatory 

Capt. Warredi Enisuoh
The Eyewitness Reporter 
Following an allegation of involvement in the alleged oil theft incident against Tantita Security Services Limited by the Nigerian Navy, the security outfit has described the accusation as laughable and an attempt by the Navy to cover up the truth.
The security outfit, which has received widespread commendation for its efforts in combatting the menace of oil theft in the country, debunked accusations of any involvement of its operatives in the incident while lampooning the Navy for underestimating its operatives.
Reacting to the development, the Executive Director – Operations and Technical, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, Capt. Warredi Enisuoh in a statement described the Navy’s claim as “defamatory and libelous”.
The statement said: “The activities going on inside the Nigerian Navy’s FalconEye should be investigated as the ship was only a few kilometers off the coast of Ondo State, well within view of the Nigerian Navy’s FalconEye, but they never reacted”.
“We are indeed saddened and disappointed that the Nigerian Navy could descend so low as to make such bizarre accusations against our organisation, knowing the same to be false,” he added.
“Perhaps they are not aware that video evidence of what transpired between the Tantita operatives and the Nigerian Navy at the scene exists and has been transmitted to the highest authorities.
“We will therefore not join issues with the Nigerian Navy as we are well aware that Nigerians know who is who.”
It would be recalled that the activities of Tantita and other security outfits have saved the country a whopping $43.2m from oil theft daily.
Recalled that on Thursday, December 7, 2023, the Nigerian Navy had disclosed that 17 people said to be engaged in the illegal siphoning of crude oil in Ondo State were nabbed aboard a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 Lagos.
Navy spokesperson, Commodore Adedotun Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, disclosed in a statement, saying the suspects were nabbed at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Igbokoda in the early hours of Thursday.
However, a day later, the Navy turned around to accuse Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL) of complicity in the incident.
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