Terminal Operators, Clearing Agents to Battle Demurrage Waivers As Maritime Workers Call Off Port Strike

Even though the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) yesterday called off its 3-day strike action at the ports, there is anxiety at the ports as to who bears the brunt of demurrages on rent and vessels for the three days which the strike lasted.

For the terminal operators and shipping companies, charges have accrued on vessels as many of them were stranded at berth unable to discharge their contents.

On the part of the clearing agents, a lot of cargoes remained trapped inside the various terminals, accruing demurrages.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Shippers Council has swung into action to mediate between terminal operators, shipping companies on possible waiver grants.

Speaking with our correspondent yesterday, Vice President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Dr. Kayode Farinto said that the Council has already started discussions with all affected parties.

According to him, clearing agents were not the cause of the three days strike action and cannot be made to bear the brunt of paying the demurrage. He said it was unfortunate that the International Oil Companies (IOC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) allowed the workers demand to degenerate into a strike action.

Speaking, he said “We are talking to Shippers Council on the waiver of demurrage, it is not our fault that there was strike action, so we are addressing it with the Council and every other stakeholders that are involved”

“We are already talking to the terminal operators, the problem is not our fault and it is not also their fault”

“It is unfortunate that the problem had to degenerate to this level, the maritime workers have been shouting since and the government supposed to have waded into the matter, NPA supposed to have midwife the peace process and make the IOC’s see reasons why the monies should be paid, but nobody listened to the labour union, so you cannot blame them, in this country, the only language everybody knows will scare the federal government is strike, it is when they see that you are on strike that they take you serious, but it is unfortunate”

Also speaking with our correspondent, Corporate Affairs Manager of SIFAX Group, operators of Ports and Cargo Terminal at the Tin Can Island Port, Mr Olumuyiwa Akande said that the three days strike action has led to congestion inside the ports.

According to him, vessels are stranded at berth waiting to discharge their contents. He lamented that the strike action which is not also the fault of the terminal operators has led to huge losses for them.

Akande however assured that management will take a decision on whether to grant waiver on demurrage to importers.

He said “We also not the cause of the congestion, but as a business, we also value our clients, so we would find a middle ground to sort things out”

“When we don’t work for about three days now, we have a ship at berth that we couldn’t discharge and this is a big loss for us, as it is, there is congestion already, coupled with the problem of the roads, but then, we would only do our best, as soon as the strike is called off, we would start clearing the backlog of cargoes from the terminal” he said

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) management has affirmed the suspension of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) strike which entered its third day yesterday, adding that normal Port activities have been restored and assuring of industrial peace and harmony.

In a statement signed by Adams Jatto, General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications, it says that “Management regrets all inconveniences the strike might have caused Port users and other stakeholders, promising to ensure that issues that led to the strike are resolved soonest in the national interest and further enhance its mandate to deliver efficient services for customer satisfaction”

Also, in a statement sent to our correspondent yesterday signed by President of Maritime Workers Union, Comrade Adeyanju Adewale and Secretary General, Felix Akinboye, the Union said that it had observed that other businesses connected to the ports have had to suffer as a result of the strike, therefore making the dockworkers to be considerate.

“We have noted with grave concern that some major stakeholders in the industry who are not in any way involved with why the union embarked on a strike action are adversely in their operations.”

The Union, however, noted the intervention by the Ministries of Transportation and that of Labour and Employment, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as well as the Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN) to fix a meeting of parties concerned.

On that note, the Union said that “We have decided to suspend the strike action pending the outcome of the meeting scheduled to take place next week between the management of the NPA, NIMASA, NSC, NNPC and the IOCs with the leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria.”

The MWUN expressed its appreciation for the intervention by the Nigerian Labour Congress, and other sister unions for their solidarity while the strike lasted.

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