Importers’ Association joins in legal battle against Terminal Operators, Shipping Coys …Case adjourned to December 1

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday  adjourned a suit brought by the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) till Dec. 1 for hearing.

This is coming as the Lagos Shippers’ Association applied  to be joined in the suit between the   shipping lines, terminal operators and the Nigerian Shippers  Council (NSC).
The Presiding Judge, Ibrahim Buba, explained  that the parties had sought for declaratory relief.
Buba said that  the law provides that  parties were at liberty to appeal to court for declaratory relief.
A declaratory relief is a judge’s determination (declaratory judgment) of the parties’ rights under a contract or a statute often requested for information in a lawsuit over a contract.
The theory of declaratory relief is that an early resolution of legal rights will resolve some or all of the other issues in the matter.
According to Buba, “The law has said that a party is at liberty to appeal to court for declaratory relief whether it will confer benefit on him or not.  This court shall in the interest of speedy disposal of this matter allow the party (shippers’ association) to come in as the second defendant since it has
interest in this matter”.
It would be recalled  that the shipping agencies had filed a case against the Shippers’ Council about two weeks ago in protest against a public notice   reversing   storage fees at the ports.
The  Council had reversed   the  charges   to   the  May 1, 2009  rates approved by the Transport Minister.
The NSC, as the port economic regulator, also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the ports from three to seven days.
Also  on Monday, the Counsel to the second defendant (Shippers’ Association Lagos State), Mr Osuala Nwagbara, said the association was interested in the case filed by ASLA against the NSC.
He said, “It does not matter if it takes longer time to attain justice. It does not matter if other people come in.
The important thing is that there is an agreement between the lawyers and the court to speed up the trials.
Our position is the position of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the council should be respected, being the umpire.”
On the other hand,  the  Councsel to NSC, Mr Emeka Akabogu, said that the joint defence by the shippers’ association was part of court procedures to enable all parties tie their works.
The Ports Regulator also  directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency fees from N26, 500 to N23, 850 per 20 ft container and from N48,000 to N40, 000 per 40ft container.

It also directed shipping agencies to refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.