Shippers’ Council complies with Court order over storage, shipping charges

Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has said that it would comply with an order of the Federal High Court, which restrained it from implementing a notice reversing storage charges at the nation’s seaports and shipping line agency charges.

Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the NSC, Mr. Ignatius Nweke informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY via telephone yesterday that the NSC was a law-abiding agency of government and would not do anything to undermine the judiciary.

“The Court order is clear. There is no debating it,” he said.

Members of the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) on Friday secured a court injunction restraining the NSC from acting upon a notice it published on Wednesday last week slashing the shipping lines’ agency charges, among others.

Members of the association include Alraine Shipping Agencies, Cross Marine Services, CMA CGM Delmas, Comet Shipping Services, Grimaldi Agency and Gulf Agency.

The others are Hull Blyth Nigeria Limited, Lagos and Niger Shipping Agencies, Maersk Nigeria Limited, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Mitsui OSK Lines, PIL Nigeria Limited and Sharaf Shipping Agency.

The suit number FHC/L/CS/1646/2014 was filed on behalf of ALSA and its members by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Chidi Ilogu.

Justice Ibrahim Buba who granted the order, had earlier granted a similar order in favour of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN); restraining the Council from implementing a notice reversing storage charges at the nation’s seaports.

Ruling on an ex-parte motion brought before him on behalf of the terminal operatos by their counsels Mr. Femi Atoyebi (SAN) and Mrs Funke Agbor, Justice Buba granted an injunction restraining the NSC and/or its agents from implementing the reversal order pending determination of the substantive suit.

He adjourned the matter to Monday 10th November 2014 for further hearing.

It would be recalled that the NSC on Wednesday last week published an advertisement announcing the reversal of storage charges at the ports to that which was in force as at May 1, 2009.

NSC also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the port from three days to seven days.

The Council equally directed shipping companies to reduce their shipping line agency charges from N26,500 to N23,850 per TEU and from N48,000 to N40,000 per FEU. It also directed shipping agencies to refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.

A maritime lawyer and Chief Executive Officer of Admiralty Resource Services, Mr. Emeka Akabogu, advised stakeholders in the industry against flouting the court order.

“The Shipper’s Council will do well to obey the order and I don’t think stakeholders need to worry about that order to any large extent at this time because the orders are ex-parte orders which only restrain Shipper’s Council from enforcing that notice pending the outcome of a substantive suit,” he told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.

On the protests embarked upon by some clearing agents yesterday, Akabogu said: “Anybody can protest as far as the protests are peaceful and do not comprise law and order, that is okay because the court is already briefed on the matter.

“But at this point, I don’t think this is the time to protest. I think what they need now is advocacy on the issues for the purpose of articulating the position which will be advocated for before the court and give them a better understanding of what the issues are.”