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Intrigue, blackmail, strife tears terminal operators apart

•P&CHS RoRo operations inefficient —Operators •Inefficiency claims cheap blackmail —P&CHS

Investigations have revealed that some super agents, apparently on the payroll of some terminal operators have been going around the ports, telling customers and prospective clients that Ports & Cargo Handling Services (P&CHS), a subsidiary of Sifax Group, lacks the required experience and efficiency to handle Roll-On-Roll-Off (RoRo) cargoes at the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos. This is even as the management of P&CHS acknowledged the gang up, stating that its inefficiency claims in RoRo operations by some people amount to cheap blackmail.

In an exclusive chat with the Nigerian Tribune, a clearing agent who simply identified himself as Alloy Ezechukwu stated that news making the rounds is that P&CHS, a new entrant in RoRo port operations currently lacks the required experience to handle such services.

According to him, “Some agents, who we see as leaders in this profession based on the fact that they have been involved in clearing procedures for years, have been telling us that we should advise our clients not to take our RoRo cargoes to P&CHS.

“Their argument is based on the fact that P&CHS is relatively new in RoRo port operations and might not have the required expertise to handle volumes of cargoes.”

When asked if he thinks such information is being sponsored, he explained that “I cannot say if the agents spreading the news are being paid to do that, although I know that some terminal operators were not comfortable with the entrant of P&CHS into RoRo port operations.”

Responding to claims of inefficiency in handling RoRo services, Acting Managing Director of P&CHS, Mohammed Danaro Bulangu explained that he is aware of various antics of some terminal operators aimed at running down the Sifax Group subsidiaries’ RoRo capabilities.

“We are aware of all what they are doing. We met with them at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) when they first raised objections to our RoRo operations. They went to the extent to tell the NPA that they are the only ones that can handle RoRo operations.

“We know they have been using some customers to blackmail us, but we don’t care about that because our efficiency will avail us of all this.

“How can you say an operator is inefficient when that operator can discharge over 1500 vehicles in less than 24 hours? At P&CHS, we discharge over N1,500 vehicles in less than 24 hours. Some of these vehicles were even pulled out from the ship. What can be more efficient than that?

“Maybe people should start asking them how many days does it take them to discharge 1500 vehicles, inclusive of accidented vehicles.

“What are they calling efficiency? Our turn-around time for the shipping companies is fantastic. We are doing everything possible to ensure customers satisfaction.

“We are members of the same association, which is the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN). The problem is the downturn in activities at the ports. Everybody is trying to get enough businesses to break even.

“Now that the downturn is here, that is why they are offended that we have started doing RoRo. If they have enough vessels to handle, then they will not be going about to blackmail others. So the main issue lies in the recession. If not, nobody will be fighting anybody over RoRo operations.

“What we have done is within our agreement. NPA has confirmed that we have not gone out of the agreement. We are matured businesspeople and will not go behind to stab anybody over competition for RoRo cargoes.”