Agents, APMT May Clash Over Arbitrary Weekend Charges   

...Operators accuse Customs of absence from work weekends

Clearing agents operating at the Apapa port may be heading for a show down with a frontline terminal operator, APM Terminals (APMT) over alleged charges for services not rendered.

This is even as the agents have said that, despite the directive of the Federal Government that Nigerian ports should function 24 hours, the Nigeria Customs Service does not operate fully on weekends.

They alleged that documentation of cargoes are not done at weekends by Customs.

Speaking with Shipping Position Daily last week, Chairman of Apapa port chapter of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Dom Onyeka said that Customs brokers are planning to have a serious show down with shipping companies over the recent introduction of container detention charges and depletion of their container deposit fees.

According to him, the challenges have been relayed to the port economic regulator, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, but nothing has been done to address it.

The Apapa chairman alleged that APMT charge clearing agents for weekend operations, as well as on public holidays, even though agents don't come to clear cargoes at the weekend.

Onyeka said: "Where we are having serious problem that is yet to be tackled is the shipping companies, this is where we are preparing for a serious show down with the shipping companies"

"The challenge is that they give arbitrary charges without listening to what Shippers Council is saying, and when they know that the trucks are trapped on the roads, they keep on billing us, not minding that we have challenges taking containers in and out of the port"

"The issue we have with APMT, we are going to address it because they charge us for Saturday and Sunday and even on public holidays"

"When we come for billings, they know we don't work on public holidays but they still bill us and they expect us to pay, they are human being like us, most of them don't go to work on these public holidays, so how do they expect us to go and work, and if we don't come, they would charge us" he said

According to Onyeka, even if APMT is charging for weekend operations, it should be with a human face and not as full payment and full rate they collect on a normal day.

According to him, the officers of Nigeria Customs do not operate on weekends.

Speaking further, he said "If you have finished Customs clearance and they later blocked your job which you cannot open on Friday, customs does not come to work on Saturday to open it for you to wrote your TDO"

"Even if you come on Saturday, you cannot do anything because Customs enforcement does not come to work on Saturday, so even if you have finished signing with shipping companies and customs, to release it is not possible. This is the same in other areas that you cannot function"