Shippers’ Association Joins in Legal Battle over Shipping Charges

A Federal High Court in Lagos, Monday, adjourned a suit brought by the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) till Dec. 1 for hearing.

Also, the Lagos Shippers’ Association has approached the court, seeking to be joined in the suit between the shipping lines, terminal operators and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC).

The presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, explained that the parties had sought for declaratory relief. He said the law provides that parties were at liberty to appeal to court for declaratory relief.

A declaratory relief is a judge’s declaratory of the parties’ rights under a contract or a statute often requested for information in a lawsuit over a contract.

The theory of declaratory relief provides that an early resolution of legal rights will resolve some or all of the other issues in the matter.
According to Buba, “The law has said that a party is at liberty to appeal to court for declaratory relief whether it will confer benefit on him or not. This court shall in the interest of speedy disposal of this matter allow the party (shippers’ association) to come in as the second defendant since it has interest in this matter”.

The shipping agencies had dragged the Shippers’ Council to court about two weeks ago following a public notice reversing storage fees at the ports.

The Council had reversed the charges to the May 1, 2009 rates approved by the Minister of Transportion.
The NSC, as the port economic regulator, also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the ports from three to seven days.

Meanwhile, counsel to the second defendant (Shippers’ Association Lagos State), Mr. Osuala Nwagbara, has asked the court to join his client as (the association) as interested party in the suit.

Nwagbara said: “It does not matter if it takes longer time to attain justice. It does not matter if other people come in. The important thing is that there is an agreement between the lawyers and the court to speed up the trials. Our position is the position of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the council should be respected, being the umpire”.

On the other hand, the counsel to the NSC, Mr. Emeka Akabogu, said the joint defence by the shippers’ association was part of court procedures to enable all parties tie their works.

The ports regulator also directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency fees from N26, 500 to N23, 850 per 20 ft container and from N48,000 to N40, 000 per 40ft container.
It also directed shipping agencies to refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.
Source: This Day Live



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