Bar. Sam Nwakohu, the registrar of of the CRFFN speaking to the press after the meeting.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The stakeholders meeting organised by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) to iron out the 11 point issues tabled by freight forwarders in a letter written to the Maersk Line Nigeria Limited and copied to 20 different Government bodies and private associations ended with a plan for an executive session on Friday the 12th of November. The meeting also ended with a lot of misgivings on the side of some of the freight forwarders as they think that the Shipping companies are high handed and operating with impunity.
Andrew Lynch, the acting chairman of the SAAN speaking to newsmen after the meeting.
One should recall that the five registered freight forwarding associations were in a meeting called by the CRFFN on the 29th of October as a fallout of the letter written by the NAGAFF 100% Compliance team where all the itemised issues were to be ironed out, but it was not much fruitful as the Shipping companies elected not to attend then.
A group photograph after the meeting.
The complaints of the freight forwarders as contained in the letter include the depletion of container deposits, undue debits in equipment detention, the shipping companies taking them into disputes with their transporters/clients, extortion of monies of up to the tune of #150,000.00 from transporters before receiving empty containers and the cost passed to freight forwarders before returning their container cards, network issues resulting in the inability to raise invoices, transmitting TDOs which cause losses of up to #10m per day, deceitful demand in opening of importer account and extortion before releasing invoice, transfer of containers against the wish, consent or approval of the consignee thereby causing the loss of #50m on daily basis, illegal transfer charges which are against the directive of the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, undue equipment retention charges of up to #200,000 for a 40ft container and #100,000 for a 20ft container, that the transporters should be paid for the use of their trucks as holding bays and lastly a stop to the incessant arrest of truck drivers and owners over the misunderstanding on missing containers.
NAGAFF president, Chief Tochukwu Ezisi at the meeting.
The Shipping companies made it a point of duty to attend this particular meeting unlike the last one that took place on the 29th of October and as the meeting went on, the chairman of the Shipping Agents Association of Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Lynch responded to all the issues as itemised.
The registrar of the CRFFN, Barrister Sam Nwakohu who presided over the meeting proved to a large extent to be a firm hand as he steered the meeting through a lot of emotional outbursts, angry words and a few uncharitable gestures to land at a somewhat agreeable compromise of further consultation. In an interview after the meeting Mr. Nwakohu said that the meeting has been good and fruitful as the Shipping companies were in attendance as well as the transporters and freight forwarders and that the shipping companies have been able to respond to a lot of the questions. He stated that he is satisfied with some of the responses as he said that he has called for an executive session where most of the issues will be mostly resolved. He added that he is not satisfied with the number of holding bays available because they are inadequate as he opined that freight forwarders should not pay transfer charges on containers. He said that part of the two resolutions are that all charges in respect of transfer of containers should be put on hold.
A cross section of participants at the meeting.
Mr. Simeon Nwonu, the deputy national president of NAGAFF opined that they have been having this kind of meetings without any resolution, but that they will continue to seek ways of resolving all the issues.
Mr. Andrew Lynch, the Chairman of the Shipping Agents Association of Nigeria said that the issues raised by the freight forwarders are valid challenges and that most of the 11 point issues are connected, but can mainly be categorised into 2 notably the challenges experienced in the course of returning empty containers to the shipping companies and the second is the issue of transferring the empty containers to the bonded terminals as he stated that different environmental factors play to undermine the smooth transfer of containers from one point to the other. He noted that the meeting has been fruitful in making all parties to understand the other side better. Mr Lynch said that his company, MSC is committed to returning 100% of all empty containers to their countries of origin.
The freight forwarders addressing the press after the meeting.
The freight forwarders on their own part spoke at the end of the meeting. The president of NAGAFF, Chief Tochukwu Ezisi who chaired the press briefing noted that no decision has been taken in today’s meeting, but that certainly decisions will be taken at the executive session on Friday. He said that the vexatious issues of demurrage and excess charges will be addressed at the executive session as he promised that they will make members laugh in the end. The vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto also added that whatever decision is presented to the press is a collective decision as all the registered associations are represented. He noted that the recent global policy of desulfurization-the reduction in the emission of sulphur into the atmosphere has raised the cost of fuel. This issue of desulfurization is making the Shipping companies to shift their responsibilities by leaving empty containers behind preferring to move export cargoes instead in order to make money. He promises that they are dealing with it all holistically, he said that with this meeting, they are allowing the Shipping companies no place to hide anymore. On the statement by MSC Shipping line that they are taking back about 93% of their empty containers, he asked that journalists should investigate to find out if this is true. He asked the CRFFN to be up and doing and to stop protecting the Shipping companies at the expense of other Nigerians. The Chairman of the NAGAFF 100% Compliance team, Mr. Ibrahim Tanko when asked if the proposed withdrawal of service has been suspended said that the service withdrawal has only been moved forward to allow for the executive session to take place and that if there is no resolution, the withdrawal of service will start by Thursday, the 17th of November.
More pictures of participants at the meeting.
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