Freight forwarders have vowed to resume the suspended industrial action at the expiration of a new notice issued to international shipping lines operating in Nigeria over what they described as exploitative services.
The operators issued the notice yesterday, following the shipping lines’ refusal to attend a truce meeting facilitated by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) in Lagos, last Friday, as instructed by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The freight forwarders had earlier given a two-week strike ultimatum from October 25 to November 10, 2021 to shipping companies to stop their exploitative dealings or face withdrawal of services in port operations.
The freight agents had listed the dubious methods being used by the liners to cheat their principals, which are depletion of container deposit refunds, detention invoice, deceitful demand of opening of importers account/ extortion before releasing invoice, undue debiting of importers, and transfer of containers against the wish, consent or approval of the consignee.
Others are unnecessary extortion of importers up to N150,000 before dropping empty containers, internet failure leading to raising an invoice, undue equipment detention charges ranging from N200,000 per 1×40ft and N100,000 ×1×20ft multiplied by over 1000 containers per day.
Nigerian importers were reported to have lost several billions of Naira to the shipping lines. During the resolution meeting by the CRFFN, shipping companies nor their representatives were not present, neither were they present at the Nigerian Shippers Council’s (NSC) parallel meeting involving the same stakeholders, which held the same day.
Apparently annoyed by the development, some of the freight forwarding associations’ representatives, which include, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN) and National Association of Air Freight Forwarding and Consolidation (NAFFAC) and National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agent (NCMDLCA), stormed out of the meeting.
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door meeting, the National Coordinator of the NAGAFF 100 percent Compliance team, Ibrahim Tanko, bemoaned the inability of the meeting to produce the desired result, alleging that the shipping companies deliberately boycotted the meeting as no excuse was given for their failure to attend.
Tanko, who lamented the operational challenges agents are faced with at the port, said none of the port industry regulators are ready to address their concerns.
Tanko said the strike was suspended in respect and appreciation of the role of the CRFFN in resolving the crisis, but vowed that freight forwarders would not back down on their demand for good services and resume the strike once the new strike notice served the shipping companies expires.
The Registrar of CRFFN, Sam Nwakohu, while speaking at the meeting expressed displeasure over the absence of the shipping companies despite being notified of the meeting.
Noting that the presence of the representatives of the shipping companies was needed to address issues raised by the freight forwarders, Nwakohu appealed to the agents to shelve their planned withdrawal of service as the country cannot afford any disruption in economic activities at the port.
He said CRFFN had to wade into the matter not only to avert the strike, but to save the port and the national economy from dangers often associated with the strike. He assured that the meeting would be called again until the Council is able to harmonise the warring factions.
Nwakohu said the meeting would be held again to give the shipping lines an opportunity to state their own side of the matter, noting that if they fail to attend, he might be forced to report them to the Minister of Transportation.
– The Guardian