• Monday, December 04, 2023
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Stakeholders indict service providers of abuse of court order on shipping charges

Rethinking maritime trade in Africa

Industry stakeholders have raised an alarm that terminal operators and shipping companies operating in Nigeria’s seaports have continued to disregard the Lagos Federal High Court order given December 2014, that mandates them to stop collecting some controversial shipping charges at the ports.

According to them, the refusal of the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) and the Association of Shipping Lines Agency (ALSA) to obey the court order would have great consequences on the shipping industry, including the nation’s economy at large, thus the need to discourage such.

Lucky Amiwero, president, National Council of Managing Directors’ of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), who stated that “the service providers have no legal right to go against the other of the Federal High Court,” called on the Shippers’ Council to take immediate action by setting up a committee that will see to the enforcement of the court order.

In the same vein, Jonathan Nicol, president, Nigerian Shippers’ Association, who said his members were currently compiling the list of the unlawful charges that were being collected by shipping companies and terminal operators, said also that terminal operators and shipping companies ought to have waited for court approval before collecting charges.

Read also: Court strikes down illegal port charges, orders shipping companies to refund over N1trillion

Also, Eugene Nweke, president, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), who described the action of the service providers as deliberate abuse of the law, said such should not be allowed to happen in Nigeria.

Nweke, who noted the terminal operators and shipping companies should be called to order, said the intelligence unit of his association had asked every member to put the charges together for necessary action.

This is why a renowned maritime lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba, last week told newsmen that the Shippers’ Council had also perfected plans to go after the terminal operators and shipping companies to ensure they to return about N1 trillion, the estimated amount collected illegally from importers at the ports.

He further expressed concern that the service providers at the ports had over the years collected illegal charges, which according to him, had made the cost of doing business at the ports more expensive compared with other countries in West Africa.

Noting that such money would help the economy to grow rather than creating capital flight, the senior advocate of Nigeria also said there was the need to check the excesses of the service providers at the ports.

Recall that the Federal High Court, Lagos, in December 2014, upheld the directive of the ports economic regulator given to the service providers to reduce the progressive storage charge to the rate approved by the Transport Ministry in 2009.

The court, which dismissed the case brought against the ports regulator on the policy decision, further upheld the directive of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) given to the shipping companies to reduce the shipping line agency charge, including container cleaning and maintenance charge by 50 percent.