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Freight forwarders threaten strike over poor access to seaports

By Sulaimon Salau
10 December 2019   |   4:18 am
Freight forwarders have issued a threat to down tool in the next 21 days, if the Federal Government failed to resolve the bottlenecks associated with accessing the seaports.

Freight forwarders have issued a threat to down tool in the next 21 days, if the Federal Government failed to resolve the bottlenecks associated with accessing the seaports.

The group, under the auspice of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), said it is currently mobilising other sister associations to jointly protest against the alleged extortion and unresolved difficulties in accessing Lagos ports, despite the call up system introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

Vice-President, Western Zone of NAGAFF, Tanko Ibrahim, said the call-up system has collapsed, thereby subjecting freight forwarders to unwarranted extortion and harassment.

Ibrahim disclosed that as a result of these challenges, freight forwarders have written to the NPA to convene a meeting of relevant stakeholders to address the problems.

“The NPA call-up system has collapsed due to the failure of the shipping companies to adhere to the NPA directive to have holding bays.

“Also, the terminal operators lack adequate cargo handling equipment which made trucks cleared to access the terminal get stranded at the gate, thereby causing long queues on the access roads,” Ibrahim declared.

He said this development has now created traffic nightmare on the port access roads, which has thrown up lots of challenges.

“As results of this, the Presidential Taskforce team has cashed in on the situation to subject truckers to mindless extortion,” he alleged.

Ibrahim further disclosed that as a result of the gridlock, the shipping companies slam them with huge and unwarranted demurrage charges, while their container deposits are usually mutilated or returned.

The freight forwarders further complained that their Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) issued by the shipping companies usually get expired, as truck drivers are perpetually trapped in the traffic mayhem, while the shippers would insist on revalidation of the TDO at a cost.

He continued; “These operational challenges thrown up by the gridlock have placed additional financial burden on the freight forwarders and their principals due to no fault of theirs.

“So last week, the concerned freight forwarders convened a meeting where we invited all the relevant stakeholders including the NPA, Shippers’ Council, shipping companies, terminal operators, NARTO, AMATO, Maritime Police and all the freight forwarding associations of ANLCA, AREFF, Council of Managing Directors, and others.

“But to our greatest surprise and annoyance, while other stakeholders honoured the invitation, the shipping companies and terminal operators, who are the major culprits of these illegalities, stayed away.

“So we resolved to ask the NPA management to convene another meeting where all the stakeholders, including the recalcitrant shipping companies and terminal operators, would be compelled to attend.

“This is because the NPA, as the regulatory agency, will have enough clout to compel them to attend,” Ibrahim said.

In letter addressed to the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, NPA, dated November 28th, 2019, and signed by Tanko Ibrahim, the group stated: “We are therefore giving the NPA a 21-day ultimatum from the day they received the letter, to convene this crucial summit or be prepared to face massive strike action by the freight forwarders.”

Meanwhile, the Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce team on Apapa traffic, Kayode Opeifa, had earlier dismissed the allegation of extortion by the team as baseless and an attempt to blackmail the team.