Terminal operators, shipping lines appeal High Court judgement on charges

Counsels to the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) and the Seaport Terminal Operators’ Association of Nigeria (STOAN) yesterday obtained an order for stay of execution of the ruling of a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos which dismissed their suits against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) over the reduction of shipping line agency charges (SLAC) and refund of container deposits with regards to ASLA members and reduction in progressive storage charges and increase in free storage days with regards to STOAN members.

The appeal is coming on the heels of the dismissal of the suits of both associations against the NSC by Justice Ibrahim Buba yesterday.

Both associations have also filed notices of appeal against the Federal High Court judgement.

A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the execution of a court judgment or other court order.

In addition to dismissing the claims by ASLA and STOAN, Buba also granted the counter claims filed by Nigerian Shippers’ Council and  affirmed the powers of the Council as the economic regulator of the port.

Buba said President Goodluck Jonathan had the power under Section 5 of the Nigerian Constitution to appoint the NSC as port regulator.

The Judge held that SLAC levied and collected from Nigerian shippers by the shipping companies since 2006 was illegal.

He added that the shipping companies should account and pay to Nigerian shippers all monies or fees charged and collected since 2006 as SLAC.

The Judge ordered that the refund of SLAC collected since 2006 should be accounted for and paid to the Cargo Defence Fund, a department under the NSC, for the benefit of the shippers.

In the matter between STOAN and the NSC, Buba held that terminal operators must abide by the directives of the NSC which reversed progressive storage charges to that which obtained as at May 2009. He also upheld the increase in storage charges from three days to seven days as directed by the NSC.

It would be recalled that members of the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) on Friday 30th October 2014 secured a court injunction restraining NSC from slashing the shipping lines’ agency charges as published recently in the national dailies.

Members of the association include Alraine Shipping Agencies, Cross Marine Services, CMA CGM Delmas, Comet Shipping Services, Grimaldi Agency and Gulf Agency. 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 Chidi Ilogu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

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 NSC from implementing its proposed reversal of storage charges and increase of free storage days at the nation’s seaports from three to seven. NSC had 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 and directed shipping agencies to refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.

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