THE Shippers Association of Lagos State Chairman, Rev. Jonathan Nico has stated that if clearing agents and freight forwarders go ahead with their plan to shut down the ports over arbitrary charges by shipping companies and some government agencies, owners of cargoes trapped at the ports will suffer through payment of demurrages to terminal operators and shipping lines.
This is even as Nico explained that once any government agency is broke, they rush down to the ports to shore up their revenue bases through extortion of port users.
Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune in an exclusive chat, Reverend Nico stated that what the clearing agents and freight forwarders are now fighting for is what the shippers have raised alarm over in recent past.
According to him, Shippers have been highlighting this issue since 2012. We have written to the office of the Vice President on this issue. The Vice President even setup an inter-ministerial committee to look into this issue.
“Do you know that once any government agency is broke, the ports is always the first point of call for such government agencies. They come to the ports to milk the shippers, that’s the cargo owners. That’s why so many of our members left this country to do business elsewhere.
“This country is ours, we wish to stay here and do business, but the arbitrary charges are too much. As you know, without the cargoes, there won’t be any jobs for the clearing agents and freight forwarders.
“We own the cargoes the clearing agents and freight forwarders clear out of the ports, but there are too many government policies that are not making doing business inside Nigerian ports attractive.
“Normally when there are industrial actions at the ports, the shipping lines and terminal operators are the beneficiaries because cargo owners incur demurrages payable to them (shipping companies and terminal operators) on expiration of such strike action.
“The number of extra days your cargo spends inside the terminals will be added to the cargo owners bills. The shipping lines and terminal operators will tell you they were not the ones responsible for the strike.
“Strike actions should be the last option because Nigerians will still be at the receiving end of any strike.”
When asked about the handicapped position the port economic regulator, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) finds itself, Nico stated that, “We are in trouble in this country if some people run to courts to refuse regulation.
“World over, every country’s Economic Regulator are respected because they ensure price control. Economic regulator ensures peoples right are not infringed upon. But here in Nigeria, our own Economic regulator is handicapped due to court cases restraining it from functioning.
“Will strike solve our problems? Strike should be the last option, however if port users have to make such sacrifice to be heard, then so be it.”