…Shippers plan to protest unfavourable negotiations

By Godwin Oritse

IN a bid to ensure that the recent 35 per cent reduction in port charges is implemented, the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, has concluded plans to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with shipping companies by the end of this month.

Hassan Bello, Nigeria seaport

Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, Executive Secretary of the Council, Mr Hassan Bello, said the NSC, in the next few days, will sign an MoU with this group of stakeholders to improve the port industry operating environment. Besides the reduction of port charges, the Council has also abolished the container cleaning fee hitherto being collected by shipping companies, just as fifteen other port charges were removed from the list of charges.

Bello said the moment the MoU comes into effect, the implementation will also become inevitable.

Speaking on the development, Chairman of the Lagos State Shippers Association, Mr Jonathan Nicol, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the group will protest the new charges if they fell below their expectations.

Nicol said the shipping companies must withdraw the court case they instituted against NSC resisting the Council’s demand that they refund certain monies to some shippers.

The association also described the resort to the court by the shipping companies as an insult on the Nigerian Government.

He said: “The Nigerian Shippers Council has been involved in negotiations of charges with these foreign shipping companies before they went to court. They must withdraw the case before the negotiations can take place. They went to court when the negotiations were going on, we are an interested party in the case because we are the ones paying the monies.

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“We are waiting to see the outcome of the negotiations before we know what line of action we will take. We are going to protest if the negotiations between the Nigerian Shippers Council and the shipping companies are not good enough and does not meet our expectations.

“Something positive must be achieved, we know how much reduction we want and we must be carried along in the collective bargaining. Shipping companies cannot dictate to us.”

According to Kayode Farinto, Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, “what is happening in Nigeria is pure extortion by the shipping companies.”

Far into also said that once the management of the Nigerian Shippers Council is able to go into the MoU, the shipping firms will have to adhere to the MoU.

He said: “You see, what is happening in Nigeria is pure extortion. The shipping companies are owners of the boxes, the container cleaning fee has been charged along with the cost of freight.”

Meanwhile, sources close to the Nigerian Shippers Council told Vanguard Maritime Report that the negotiation was not just with the shipping companies and terminal operators.

It was also gathered that the negotiation will be with maritime-based government agencies like the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC.

The negotiation with these agencies will be a downward review of the charges so as to create a more cost-effective business environment in the maritime sector and re-direct Nigerian bound cargoes that were hitherto diverted to ports of neighbouring countries.

Vanguard Maritime Report also learnt that part of the negotiation was to have part of the charges collected by both shipping companies and terminal operators returned to shippers.



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