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Agents, transporters threaten services withdrawal over illegal charges

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As unchecked arbitrary charges that have bedevilled Nigerian seaports bite harder, some concerned operators have resolved to withdraw their operations, if urgent actions are not taken to halt the trend.
   
The group, under the aegis of Concerned Freight Forwarders and Transporters, has vowed to withdraw their services from the nation’s seaports over illegal charges by shipping companies and terminal operators.
   
Speaking with journalists in Lagos, yesterday, the group also threatened to take legal steps against erring shipping companies and terminal operators, even as they issued a 14-day ultimatum to withdraw their services if the government fails to take urgent action.

   
They called on the Federal Government to call the shipping companies and terminal operators to order, to ensure the nation’s ports run smoothly to guarantee the ease of doing business and trade facilitation.
     
Chairman of the group, Andy Omenogor, said members are dying daily due to unjustified demurrage by shipping companies, adding that they cannot take it any longer, hence the call for government’s intervention.
     
According to him, shipping companies and terminal operators must stop charging demurrage for any delays to load after Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) has been issued.
   
The group rolled out other demands, which include: “Shipping companies must refund container deposits in full within four days of return of the empty container(s).
   
“Shipping companies must provide adequate holding bays that can accommodate all their empty containers at any given time,m and no charges should be imposed on us for returning empty containers at designated holding bays.
     
“Any shipping company or terminal operator who uses our trucks as temporary holding bays by refusing to receive the empties when brought to them shall pay the transporter on a daily basis.
   
“Terminals must provide sufficient and working cargo handling equipment to handle the large volume of cargo currently being processed through the terminals. We will no longer be responsible for the payment of bogus container transfer charges.”
     
Speaking on behalf of the transporters, under the Maritime Haulage Association of Nigeria, Sunday Ejom, who argued that drastic action should be taken by the authorities concerned, gave instances of what transporters go through on daily basis after spending about four weeks trying to gain access into the nation’s seaports.
   
According to him, terminal operators contribute to about 70 per cent of their problems, while most of them (drivers) are already having a mental and psychological imbalance.
   
“For our trucks to gain access to the ports, we spend N150,000 on these agencies including security officials. At the end of the day, when it gets to our turn to enter the port, we are turned back to go and begin from the long queue,” he said.

 Secretary to the group, John Ubaka, said the meeting aimed at ensuring 48-hour cargo clearance is feasible.
 
At a stakeholders’ forum yesterday, the freight forwarders and transporters, in their large numbers decried the high-handedness and illegal charges they are faced with daily by shipping companies and terminal operators.


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