Clearing agents embark on warning strike over non-compliance with demurrage waiver
Port operations were disrupted yesterday when clearing agents under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) embarked on a warning strike and withdrew their cargo clearance services temporarily.
The aggrieved agents said the strike was necessitated by refusal of terminal operators and shipping companies to waive demurrage and storage charges in line with the Federal Government’s directive.
Earlier, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had directed terminal operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage fees on consignments (demurrage) for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020. It has also extended the demurrage-free period by another 14 days from April 13, 2020.
In another memo issued on April 8, NPA said it would “grant credit notes commensurate with rental reliefs granted by the terminal operators to importers within the 21-day free storage period”.
But not withstanding the directive, the terminal operators and shipping firms are allegedly not complying. Vice President of ANCLA, Kayode Farinto, confirmed that their members were on a “warning strike” to protest the non-compliance of the terminals and shipping firms to the demurrage waiver.
He said: “It is just a warning strike. It is unfair, if the terminals and shipping firms are not complying with the government’s directive to waive demurrage. We have complained to NPA several times and we are tired of complaining. We want swift intervention.”
Another agent, Dom Onyeka, said the agent have stopped writing Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) to take their containers, adding, “At the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, NPA told us that storage and demurrage would be waved off, they called us to come out and start working despite the Coronavirus”
General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, Jatto Adams, said the agents only picketed one of the terminals and that situation is being looked into.
He said NPA had already directed the agents to submit their documents on the charges to the port managers for onward treatment, but only few of them are submitting.
He assured that the authority would wade into the matter and ensure compliance by the terminal operators, noting that the headquarters in Marina, Lagos is currently in lockdown.
He said, “We told the agents that they should submit their evidence that the terminal operators were not complying, let them give us their delivery documents”
“The documents can be submitted to the port managers and from there we should know if shipping companies and terminal operators are complying or not, this will help in resolving the matter”