The Tincan Island port chapter of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) yesterday barricaded the premises of the Hanover Bonded Terminal located within the Tincan Island Port Complex forcing the operations of the terminal to come to a halt for about two hours.
The protesting NAGAFF members on arriving at the terminal demanded to see the management of the terminal but were told that the managers were out on official assignment, a statement which angered the leadership of the association forcing them to order agents transacting business with the terminal at the time to leave the hall until management address their needs.
Speaking to newsmen on their grievances against the terminal operator, the Treasurer of NAGAFF, Tincan Island chapter, Mr. Okwudili Onwudinjo informed that they had been a lot of complains from freight forwarders in respect of what Hanover was doing to them adding that some of them had been at the terminal for the past one or two weeks with Hanover management unable to offload the containers for examination.
Onwudinjo added that aside the management’s inability to offload containers for examination, it was charging the agents N5,000 every day for keeping their containers at the terminal even as he said that those agents who were ready to take out their containers could not do so because there was no forklift to load containers on the trucks.
According to him,” Apart from that, if you look at the access road inside this Tincan, you will notice that it has been blocked by containers that are supposed to go into their terminal but because they don’t have this forklift to offload those ones that are inside and load, the whole road has been blocked courtesy of Hanover.
“The agents are paying demurrage on top of all these things. This thing has been on for two weeks, the agents have kept quiet, nothing is being done for two weeks and they will be telling them stories that they are working on the equipment but for two weeks, they cannot even repair one plant.
“Now agents are paying for their containers on top of the trucks that are parked outside, every day they pay N20, 000 because the transporters are collecting their money. Then the demurrage for container demurrage is going, the agent is paying, those that paid extra demurrage to the shipping companies, their money is going, now the agents are having problem with their importers, having problem with shipping companies, having problem with transporters and having problem with Hanover, NPA is chaining their vehicles courtesy of Hanover. Please if this Hanover is not ready to manage their terminal, they should close down”.
He noted that the demand of the association included that the terminal operator should get an equipment to offload and load containers of freight forwarders, discontinue the collection of N5, 000 demurrage that they were collecting from the agents every day as well as liaise with Ports and Cargo, TICT and even the shipping companies to see what they could do for the delay and the demurrages that the freight forwarders were paying.
“What we intend doing is to wait, we need to see the management and discuss with them, present our problem so that they will give us assurance on what they will do, so that we can all sit down, discuss, put them in writing, then we can now go to our offices and wait for them to do what they have agreed with us”, he added.
On his part, the Secretary of NAGAFF, Tincan Island port chapter, Mr. Godfrey Emeka Nwosu recalled that the place before now used to be an offloading bay where when freight forwarders took delivery from the port, they go there and unstuff for import and export informing that Hanover management was lucky enough get let license for bonded terminal operation using the site.
He pointed out that the terminal had been involved in transire processing, taking the container import there for proper customs examination and release so that the containers would be delivered.
He however regretted that in the past three weeks, freight forwarders had been subjected to undue suffering saying that a look outside the terminal, one was bound to see trucks lined up, all carrying imported containers on transire to the terminal with demurrages accruing from the terminals, shipping companies as well as truck charges.
“Look at the people here, no proper arrangement for them, nowhere to sit down; nobody is talking to them and we say we are in a system. Who brings the money, the freight forwarders, no care, no concern and they are here collecting money from them running into hundreds of thousand that we pay for transire, then for them to discharge their own part, there is no equipment, no forklift, even the examination bay is not conducive enough to perform customs examination”, he said.
Also speaking, an freight forwarder who simply identified himself as James disclosed that he had been at the terminal waiting to load his consignment since a day before pointing at two other freight forwarders who he said their jobs had been at the terminal for two week and three weeks respectively unable to take delivery as a result of lack of facilities to load and offload consignment from the terminal.
He noted that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Security had chained some of the trucks carrying containers transired to the terminal but had to park on the access road as a result of their inability to access the terminal to drop their containers while the terminal management, rather than approaching NPA to find a way out would expect freight forwarders to go to NPA to pay huge sums of money before their trucks would be unchained, all adding up to the running cost of the freight forwarders even when it was not their making.
He said,” What we are demanding is that they should provide us with a machine for the jobs to be done, nothing short of that. They are transired from so many shipping companies to this place. And in MSC, you have to pay for fifteen days upfront before they can write TDO for you and if you collect TDO and you have not loaded it from the terminal, when you go back to load, they will not allow you to load unless you pay for another fifteen days”.
Another freight forwarder, Mr. Obiemeka Wilson Onyekachi recalled that the problem started about two months ago when the forklift used by the Hanover management in loading and offloading containers developed fault and all attempts to fix it had not yielded any positive result as it kept breaking down every now and then leaving their jobs undone and their demurrages at the shipping companies depleting.
In his words,” Every day, we are paying demurrages to the shipping companies and we are paying demurrages here. They rate it against us, every day, we pay N5, 000 for dropping containers here. First of all, they will charge you N35,000 for bringing it here, but if exceed one day, a day is N5,000 , that is how they will be counting it for you depending on how many days your container spend here.
“I did my examination yesterday, I suppose to take delivery today and when I went to rate my terminal charges, they said I should wait because I know what they are planning, they will rate from last week that this container has stayed here forgetting that it was their fault. We are tired, we don’t know what to again because nobody is coming to our aid”.
On why they chose to suffer at the terminal where there were other bonded terminals they could have used, he said, “It is because of transport fare. For you to transport your consignment to Clarion or to anywhere else, the transport fare is high. So, we now decided to use this place because it is close by. I don’t think I will come here again”.
However, a staff of the terminal who claimed to be the Accountant but refused to disclosed her name said that the terminal management was aware of the sufferings of the freight forwarders and working hard to assuage it even as she promised that the management was going to waive their demurrage for the freight forwarders for the number of days that they were not able to attend to them.
Later on, a man who claimed to be the Managing Director of the terminal in a phone call pleaded with the protesting freight forwarders to vacate the premises as he was making arrangements to ensure that the forklift worked that same day. He promised to arrange a meeting between them the moment he fix the problem, a situation which made the leadership of NAGAFF to withdraw their members giving room for operations at the terminal to bounce back.
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