The hangman’s noose is still dangling over the heads of international shipping companies in Nigeria despite the suspension of strike by freight forwarders.
The freight forwarders, coming out of a meeting facilitated by the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) in Lagos, last week, vowed to resume the suspended strike on the expiration of a new strike notice given to the shipping lines to stop their exploitative services. The new notice starts today, Monday, 1 November 2021.
Late in October, Nigerian freight forwarders gave the shipping liners a two-week strike notice to stop their exploitative services or face withdrawal of services. The forwarders listed the dubious methods being used by the liners to cheat their principals thus: 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 dubiously to the shipping lines.
As the CRFFN waded in to resolve the matter, the freight forwarders agreed to suspend the strike but the liners decided to stay aloof and never bulged to attend the meeting.
Speaking to PortNews at the sideline of the meeting, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko, National Coordinator of 100% Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), bemoaned the inability of the meeting to produce the desired result as the accused, shipping liners, stayed away from it.
Alhaji Ibrahim 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 liners, which commences today, Monday, 1 November 2021, expires.
“We need to respect our regulatory body, CRFFN; and that is why we stepped down our strike action. I am not happy with today’s meeting because nobody was ready to address our complaints and assuage our pains. Who is ready to help us save Nigerian freight forwarders from the exploitation of these shipping lines? We may go back to the strike.
“We are going to give them another two-week notice starting from Monday, November 1, 2021, expecting actions from the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, and the CRFFN to resolve the matter. At the expiration of the notice and there is no result, we shall embark on a total withdrawal of our services from the shipping lines,” Tanko vowed.
Speaking with PortNews earlier, the Registrar/CEO of CRFFN, Sam Nwakohu said CRFFN had to wade into the matter not only to avert the strike but to save the port and the national economy of dangers often associated with the strike.
Ruing the absence of the shipping liners, the CRFFN boss agreed that the freight forwarders had genuine cases to fight but strike might not be the solution as the port activities were instrumental to the growth of the national economy and could not be allowed to be held down by a strike.
Nwakohu said that the meeting would be held again to give the shipping lines an opportunity to state their own side of the matter. He stressed that if they fail to attend, he might be forced to report them to the Minister of Transportation
The CRFFN Registrar assured the freight forwarders that all the resolutions of the meeting shall be implemented.
The resolutions are:
CRFFN must put in more efforts to ensure that shipping liners attend the next meeting; freight forwarders withhold the strike till shipping companies respond to issue raised; CRFFN should synergize with NPA, Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Shippers’ Council to look into all the complaints of freight forwarders and resolve them; freight forwarders should embrace new technology and not minding the teething problems associated with it, and shipping companies should not pass charges to freight forwarders when the internet is down.
Others are: NPA should look into the issue of inadequate holding bays and transfer of containers to bonded terminals without the notice of consignees; excessive charges on dropping of empty containers by shipping lines.