• Monday, February 26, 2024
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Lack of responsibility for damage, loss of cargo at port hampers claims

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The inability of terminal port operators to accept responsibility for damage or loss of cargo within the terminal has been blamed for ambiguities surrounding claims payments and recovery on importers losses.

According to insurers, this lack of responsibility by terminal operators and refusal to issue acceptance document for liability, is denying both owners of cargo full compensation on losses as well as insurers subrogation right.

“Experience has shown that where cargoes are damaged at our ports either during discharge or whilst in the custody of the terminal operators, they refuse to issue documents taking responsibility for such missing cargo or damaged cargo.”

Funsho Oladimeji, chairperson, Marine Committee of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) made the observation at a Roundtable 2 on Cargo Exposure to Risk of Damage, Loss and Delay at Nigerian Ports and Terminal organised by Cargo Defence Fund in partnership with other stakeholders.

Oladimeji stated that the losses insurance companies are facing run into millions of naira. “The entire insurance industry is facing cases of losses paid to cargo owners that are never recovered by the insurers after payment,” she said.

She also noted that documentation of the loss is very important for substantiating the marine claim. Letters of protest should be obtained as it is intended to bring the observed discrepancies on the cargo to the attention of the negligent party for their comment.

One of her arguments was that terminal operators do not allow its surveyors access to cargoes in the port, blaming terminal operators for damages to imported cargoes.

“Also the terminal operators should be held responsible for the damages to imported cargoes because they refuse to open their gates for marine surveyors to inspect the extent of damage done to goods before they are cleared from the port.

“If our appointed cargo surveyors do not have access to cargoes at the terminals, it will be difficult for them to write reports that will enable underwriters settle the claim of the insured,” Oladimeji explained.

In her recommendation, she pleaded with government and other regulatory authorities at the port to compel terminal operators to have proper liability insurance cover and such insurance policies be submitted to shippers council for scrutiny for adequacy of cover and proper wording.

“Compel terminal operators to issue documents that will enable cargo owners to make full claims of their cargo losses from insurers and also recognise insurers’ subrogation rights to recover losses after payment.”

Responding, Vicky Haastrup, a terminal operator and chairman, STOAN noted that nobody denies insurer’s surveyors access to the ports for inspection, but that insurers should follow the due process of obtaining letters of permission from the port management to be able to access cargoes.

Haastrup further explained that most of the cargoes which are already damaged  before arriving the Nigerian port terminals either due to peril or turbulence on the high sea, are most times blamed on terminal operators.

Besides, she argued that most Third World countries look down on Nigeria, and so usually send cargoes with outdated or overused containers which are no longer good and so contribute to the level of cargo damage.

By:  Modestus  Anaesoronye