STOAN files fresh suit against Shippers’ Council over port storage charges

The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) yesterday filed a fresh suit against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos shortly after Justice Ibrahim Buba struck out a case it filed earlier against the Council over progressive storage charges at the port.

STOAN had obtained an injunction on Friday 31st October, 2014 restraining the NSC from acting upon a notice it published on Wednesday 29th October, 2014 reversing storage charges at the nation’s seaports.

At the commencement of hearing of the matter yesterday, Justice Buba struck out the suit on technical grounds. He said STOAN’s Counsels failed to raise questions  that they want determined in the originating summons.

Raising the issue “Suo Motu” (meaning “on its own motion”), the Judge said: “Originating summons without questions for determination is incompetent.”

Citing several past rulings to justify his position, the Judge struck out the suit.

Meanwhile, counsel to STOAN, Mrs. Funke Agbor described the development as a temporary set back. She said the issues raised by the Judge would be addressed while the case would be re-listed. Consequently, the STOAN lawyers went to work and before close of business yesterday, got the case re-listed.

Meanwhile, the court has adjourned to Monday 17th November the case brought by members of the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) restraining the NSC from acting upon the same notice slashing shipping line agency charges.

Justice Buba said that the matter would be granted accelerated hearing because of its economic importance.

The association had equally sought and obtained a court injunction which restrained the Council from acting upon the notice pending the determination of the suit.

NSC Counsel, Emeka Akabogu said: “Rather than deal in any preliminary matters, we want to go straight into the heart of the matter and accelerate the hearing which is

what we have briefed the court and the court has adjourned the matter for definite hearing on 17th of November. The NSC is challenging that position and is very confident that the court is able to fully take care of the matter once and for all,” he said.

It would be recalled that the NSC had penultimate Wednesday 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.