By DAPO OLAWUNI
Freight forwarders at Nigerian ports have embarked on strike today Thursday 30th April 2020 over the refusal of terminal operators and shipping companies to waive demurrage and storage charges in line with the directive of the Federal Government.
At the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had directed all port terminals and shipping companies to stop collection of demurrage and storage charges, but surprisingly, the terminal operators allegedly failed to comply.
After several outcry to the NPA, the freight forwarders under the five major associations in the sector today held a meeting with the Apapa port manager, Funmilayo Olotu after which they stopped all freight forwarders from taking delivery of cargoes.
Confirming this exclusively to DAILY TREND NEWS, Chairman of Apapa chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Chief Dom Onyeka said freight forwarders have stopped writing TDO (Terminal Delivery Order) to take their containers.
According to him “At the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, NPA told us that storage and demurrage would be waved off, they called us to come out and start working despite the Coronavirus”
“At the end, Shipping companies and terminal operators are not acting on that waiver, we are now saying that we can no longer work except the directive is being implemented, we have stopped the generation and writing of TDO for now”
“We have sensitized all our members” he said
The ANLCA Chairman said that freight forwarders have met with the Port Manager, and she promised to call a stakeholders meeting on Monday with all the agents, shipping companies and terminal operators.
According to him, this meeting is to enable the agents present all evidences and determine why terminal operators refused to comply with government instructions.
He reiterated that “We have downed tools at the port, but because of the impromptu, some freight forwarders have gone for examination, but we are not allowing anyone to write TDO again. We have stopped agents from working”
“All the four associations are here, we are all together on this.
We cannot continue to wait for the NPA, we have tolerated it enough, we cannot continue to pay for what we didn’t enjoy, we didn’t cause the pandemic” he said
When DAILY TREND NEWS got in touch with the General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, Eng Jatto Adams, he said that NPA have already directed the freight forwarders to submit their evidence of payment of these charges.
Jatto confirmed that for now, the NPA marina headquarters have been on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that it is only the headquarters that can handle the crisis.
Speaking he said “We have told the agents that they need to give us evidence that the terminal operators are not complying, let them give us their terminal documents”
“These documents can be submitted to the port manager, and from there we would be able to know if shipping companies and terminal operators are complying or not, this is not a matter of making protests or going on strike”
“It is only the port that is working for now, the NPA headquarters have been lockdown, and it is only headquarters that can take decisions on this matter, they should give us time, when we resume work by Monday, management would handle the situation”