The meeting of stakeholders to deliberate on freight forwarders 14 days’ notice of withdrawal of services has failed to reach a consensus on the issues that were tabled for discussion.
The deadlock has led to an agreement that the controversial shipping charges should be put on hold pending agreement.
Recall that a freight forwarding group had issued a threat to down tools at the nation’s seaports in two weeks due to alleged extortion and high handedness by shipping companies.
The letter containing the threat was signed by the National Coordinator of the National Association of Government Approved Freight (NAGAFF) 100% Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko.
He listed some of the complaints against the shipping companies as: depletion of container deposit refunds, undue debits on equipment detention which brings the customs brokers into collision course with their transporters and principals.
But, while addressing journalists at the end of the stakeholders meeting, which held in Apapa, the Registrar of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Mr Sam Nwakohu stated that shipping companies have been able to respond to most of the issues raised by the freight forwarders.
He however noted that agreement have been met to suspend collection of container deposits and other charges until resolutions are met at a further meeting scheduled for next Friday.
He said: “The shipping companies have been able to respond to most of the issues raised by the freight forwarders which we didn’t have the opportunity during the last meeting. I said some of the issues should go for an executive session because I don’t believe they can be resolved here. The problems are real and not as simple as we may believe. I strongly believe that when they go for the executive meeting, everyone will go home smiling ad most of the issues will be resolved.
“Based on the resolutions of the meeting, container deposits and other charges will be placed on hold pending when these issues will be resolved. These charges will be waved and we will ensure it doesn’t happen again” Nwakohu assured.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Nigeria and Acting Chairman for the Shipping Association of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Andrew Lynch noted that some of the issues raised by the freight forwarders are circumstantial based on the challenging environment of the port. He however noted that efforts are being made to have a resolution with freight forwarders.
“We the shipping companies are not deaf to the complaints of importers and clearing agents in the country. We know that if the complaints are valid, but we have our own challenges as well. If we have some mutual understanding I believe it will help”, Lynch noted.
Lynch also stated that efforts are being made to ensure that 100 percent of empty containers are evacuated from the holding bays, even as he stated that they had achieved an evacuation of up to 98 percent as at last year.
In his words: “The 80 percent return of empties as directed by the Nigerian Port Authority is being met, maybe not on every vessel. My shipping company together with Maersk Line which is the second largest as at last year repatriated 98 percent of everything that came in. And this year we have recorded 93 percent. I give these figures to NPA regularly. 93 percent is not enough and we’re working towards 100 percent. There is a shortage of containers worldwide especially in the major exporting countries like China and India and we need those empty containers there and not at the holding bays”, he concluded.
Also speaking, the National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Mr. Tochukwu Ezisi noted that the five registered associations under the CRFFN are united as a body to fight the cause of freight forwarders and ensure things are done the right way.
“The issue of demurrage and excess charges has been on for more than two to three years. I think this is the time to get it right. The five registered associations under the CRFFN have been working individually but at this time, we are coming together as a body to challenge our cause and this time we will get it right” Tochukwu said.
On his part, the Vice President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr Kayode Farinto noted that freight forwarders will not allow shipping companies to continue shifting their responsibilities. He however lamented that CRFFN is supposed to be a regulator of freight forwarding who should liaise with the shipping companies and not protecting them.
“We don’t want to preempt the meeting of Friday. However, the shipping companies will not continue to shift their responsibilities. I don’t know where they want to hide now. Every shipping company is expected to have holding bays and we know that the holding bays they have cannot contain the number of empty containers. The meeting of Friday will also involve the Nigeria Shippers’ Council as the port economic regulator. We are going to deal with it holistically.
“CRFFN is a supposed to be a regulator of freight forwarders and they need to be up and doing to liaise with the shipping companies and not protecting them. All I see there is protection” Farinto noted.
Speaking about the extension of the ultimatum given to the shipping companies by freight forwarders, the National Coordinator of the National Association of Government Approved Freight (NAGAFF) 100% Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko stated that the strike is till next week Thursday, noting that if resolutions are unable to be met on Friday, the strike will continue.
“Nobody suspended the strike. It was supposed to end today, but based on the meeting we had the last time, we extended the strike by one week. We assumed it will be resolved today so that we can get back to our people but we couldn’t achieve anything today. We are coming back here on Friday and that sitting will determine whether the strike will continue on Thursday or not” Tanko said.
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