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NPA’s silence as terminal operators, shipping companies waste importers’ cargo


ENL: I don’t think anybody can do 100% satisfaction to every customer

Damaged cargo at the terminal

A
major shortcoming of the nation’s Port Reforms was last week revealed, showing
an arrangement which allegedly benefits both the seaport terminal operators and
the foreign shipping companies, but sadly, at the expense of the nation’s poor
importers, whose patronage were often rewarded by damaged cargo.

Investigation
by NOMMA showed that the cargo damage had gone on for so long, inadvertently,
with subtle, but unconfirmed connivance of the Nigerian Shippers Council, via
unnecessary silence, until some of the importers believed the deadly, costly
practice had begun to wear the toga of impunity.

The
importers alleged that while many of the seaport terminal operators were
involved in careless or reckless damage of their cargo, coupled with deliberate
delay of cargo so as to enable the concessionaires further slam them with
demurrages, they specially pointed their accusing fingers on the ENL, in Apapa;
as well as the Josephdam Terminal in Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, both of which
they alleged watch their imported goods often destroyed, with no claims ever
settled as compensation.

To
the aggrieved and complaining importers, the Port Reforms has totally
marginalized them, leaving them to protective umbrella, while clothing both the
terminal operators and shipping companies with escape mechanism called Form 38
and Clause 8 of the Bill of laden to exonerate them, respectively.

In
the course of NOMMA investigation, it was discovered that some of the terminal
operators had far less space than they needed, and somehow, equally, fairly
inadequate cargo handling plants. The result was therefore, a glaring
inadequacy of storage, which sometimes compels cargo to be kept outside, at the
mercy of merciless weather, particularly rains, over goods like plywood and
other water unfriendly goods.

It
was also discovered that the poor synergy between the shipping companies and
the terminal operators, often exacerbated by ill-trained stevedores, often
culminated in large destruction of imported cargo. Yet, the port reforms leave
the importers sulking, with no one to run to; while leaving the terminal
operators and the shipping companies, a four-way lane to exonerate themselves
and escape, again and again, each time, after wrecking havoc with the poor and
struggling importers’ cargo.

Consequently
pushed to the wall, some frustrated stakeholders bared their minds to NOMMA,
pointing out that while business terrain may be generally unpredictable, the
institutional service providers have often left them with the wrong end of the
stick!
In
his own words, Hon. Tochukwu Ezisi, one of NAGAFF members in the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria(CRFFN),  narrated how he was forced to run to
Nigerian Shippers Council at a point, even though, all he had so far received
was a ‘promissory note’.

“This
ENL issue has been there over time and presently, I have taken some of the
matters to Shippers’ Council because, you (always) see a situation whereby your
goods will be damaged either by the stevedoring or by forklift operators
employed by ENL. At the end of the day, ENL will issue you what they call Form
38 exonerating them from it and taking you back to the Shipping line.

“Then
the Shipping line will try and dodge the same responsibility quoting clause 8
of the Commercial bill of Laden.

“I
have had that issue with them severally and this time around I said it won’t
work because I have some nasty situations. Some of the pallets were coming down
on board and the rope cut off from above, the whole goods was completely
smashed.
 I have the pictures. I wrote to ENL about the damage, ENL said it is
none of their business; they gave me Form 38 to Alraine Shipping, which I have
written Alraine severally, they did not reply my letters. So, I forwarded claim
from my claim department, which still was not answered. This runs into
millions.

“I
have taken the matter to Nigerian Shippers’ Council and they have written the
shipping companies involved. We are looking for an agreed date now where all of
us will meet. It is becoming something else.

“The
nonchalance of terminal operators not just ENL is the issue. It is same thing at
Port & Cargo, and in Josephdam terminal at Tin Can. Like two or three
vessels that came in sometimes last month, if you see how the whole goods are
waterlogged and these goods are not water friendly at all.

“The
present situation at ENL is an eyesore. You see how the forklift smashes people’s
goods as if it is not being bought with money. It is a very bad one and on so
many occasions, I have talked to the ED ENL, Mr. Mark Walsh, he promised to do
something about it; but as far as I am concerned, nothing is being done.

“So,
until they start paying for these things because for now, they claim ignorance.
The terminal will tell you it is not their fault, shipping company will tell
you it is not their fault, so then, whose fault is it? At the end of the day,
the whole thing bounces back on the client, the importer, because most of my
clients keep crying everyday about the kind of losses they incur. But this time
around, we won’t take it easy with anyone of them again.

“I
have some letters with Shipper’s Council. Some of the letters have been
attended to and even this morning (July 22, 2019), one of the Insurance
companies called me in respect of one of the letters I have at Shippers’
Council concerning Alraine Shipping. So, that is the position we are at now”, he
stated further, even as another stakeholder, Mr. Bidemi Aberejo, lamented how
Josephdam kept his plywood in the rain.

“I
am still handling one case with Josephdam presently because, they left all the
goods inside the rain and it is plywood. I have the photographs.

“ENL
does not have much labour. They have sacked most of the people working for
them. Everything is being done manually and it is very very poor, the handling
is very poor, extremely poor! To the extent that we even lost most of our cargo
to them.

“They
will not deliver on time; they will not deliver safely, they will not deliver
the total number of cargo you imported; and no compensation, no apology,
nothing! I have pictures!!!”, the struggling stakeholder highlighted further.

 …To be continued tomorrow: What the NPA said,
as we bring you further tales of woes from stakeholders!

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