NPA silent as terminal operators, shipping companies waste importers cargo


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

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 with 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 at 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, Chief Tochukwu Ezisi 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 Orean Shipping, which I have written Orean 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 Orean 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 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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