By Eguono Odjegba…Sea port
HANNOVER General Bonded Terminal located within Tin Can Island Port Lagos, last week, witnessed a major protest at its facility over an alleged illegal demurrage. Investigations revealed that the demurrage was traceable to poor handling equipment which resulted in four days breakdown, even as management allegedly charged demurrage over the four day period.
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The Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, has, however, stepped into the matter to ensure that importers and their agents were not subjected to any maltreatment.
Trouble reportedly started when the facility loading Karma machine broke down and was not fixed until after four days. Hannover Terminal operator insisted on charging demurrages on containers for the number of days the problem lasted. Apart from the faulty handling equipment, users of the facility also complained of lack of maintenance of the access road and terminal floor which has been attracting extra logistics cost for importers and their agents.
Director of Consumer Services at the Nigerian Shippers Council, Chief Cajetan Agu, who visited the terminal to address the protesting agents said the Council would stop further stemming of containers to Hanover until the floors of the terminal have been properly paved; warning that failure to do so may force the Council to shut down the terminal.
Addressing the protesting agents, Agu said: “We are aware of the problems they have here at this terminal, so we have taken a decision that from Saturday till today, Thursday, October 31, 2019, they are going to waive the demurrage because the delay is on their own part.
“My plea is that you should be patient and submit your documents for update to enable you pay the right charges. If they fail to comply, we will hear from you, we have discussed with them, we are equally going to do a letter to ensure that they abide by that discussion and waive demurrages from Saturday till Thursday.”
In a chat with Vanguard Maritime Report on the development, Emmanuel Onyeka, Public Relations Officer of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Tin Can chapter, expressed dismay at the attitude of the terminal operator, and said affected agents were not ready to pay the demurrage charges.
He stated: “The issue is not the demurrage here but the number of days we are spending. They have accumulated demurrage for us in shipping companies even though they waived their own. They don’t have equipment, that is the challenge we are facing and if you go round the terminal, you will see that it does not meet up with ISPS Code. I am paying around N9,240 to TICT per day for the second period and we have not entered the third period, if we enter third period, it is N12,000 plus. Most people are already within that period while others have fourteen days.”
Also speaking, Christian Ekamaka of Divine Success Agency said although the demurrage is unjustified, he would pay because there appears to be no regulator to checkmate unfair charges in the port industry. He said: “I have been here since last week trying to load but I could not even though I have done all necessary documentation. The truck I brought here to load my container collected N95, 000 because they said the terminal was not good.
“At the end of the day, since that Friday up till now, I have not loaded and now they are pressing for demurrage. How can I pay demurrage when it was not my fault but that of Hannover. I am facing a big problem with my importer now and only God can help me to retain the importer with what is happening now.”
When contacted, a management staff of the terminal said the demurrage was an order from above, adding that efforts are ongoing to fix the broken down machine.
He stated: “We have a faulty plant and we are making serious effort to ensure we fix it. The engineers are here working on it, they worked throughout the weekend but later discovered that it was overheating, my MD asked me to go and rent another Karma which I have done.
“My boss decided to wave two days for those affected, this is because it is not the Karma that caused some of their issues, it is because they could not get trucks to load containers. The order to wave two days demurrage is from the MD and I cannot go contrary to what instruction he has given.”