TERMINAL WAR! Customs agent accuses Grimaldi, PTML of alleged fraud

Customs agent accuses Grimaldi, PTML of alleged fraud
Shipping agency, terminal operator deny, claim to operate ‘best international practices’

An anonymous Customs agent has written SHIP & PORTS DAILY, accusing officials of Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited and its sister company, Ports and Terminal Multiservice Limited (PTML), of alleged sharp practices in the cargo clearance process.
In his e-mail to SHIP & PORTS DAILY, the complainant accused the shipping agency and terminal of allegedly ripping off importers and clearing agents.
The text of the letter stated: “l want to bring to the notice of the management of Nigerian Ports Authority and the general public the dubious acts of some of the shipping companies in conjunction with their partners who masquerade as terminal operators in Lagos ports but lack integrity. These port operators and shipping companies often intimidate and harass clearing agents into accepting this fraudulent practice as normal, this is unfortunate and dangerous to the growth of our ports.
“A case at hand is the dubious and deliberate rip off of importers and clearing agents by Grimaldi Agency in alliance with PTML (Car terminal) Tincan Island Apapa. The vessel used for this dubious act is GRANDE GHANA V1210 with rotation number of 12/288, which berthed in the morning hours of 27-12-2012, on a Thursday. The cars on this vessel were not offloaded until late hours of Friday -28/12/2012, at about 7pm, when everybody including customs have closed for the day and no reason was given for the delay.

“Consequently, there was no customs on Saturday (29/12/2012) for examination and release besides banks also do not work on Saturday. On Monday 31/12/2012, when we resumed for business to take delivery of our car which was dubiously delayed, the terminal only operated till 12 noon and close for business without any formal notice.
“Therefore the implication of this act by Grimaldi and PTML was as follows:
1. The 3 days free storage normally enjoyed by importers was dubious manipulated and not applied. Because the terminal started counting storage days from 27/12/2012 even the cars were still on board the vessel, this is fraudulent.
2. We were made to pay for extra days as demurrage even when the delay in discharge of the cars was deliberately done by the shipping company-grimaldi, this is broad day light fraud.

“Therefore am using this medium to call on the supervising government agencies and other stakeholders to hold Grimaldi Agency and PTML to account for the rip off. They should be fined and made to refund the excess demurrage charged on this particular vessel to the government. This will serve as a deterrent to other shipping companies and terminals who also engage in this kind of fraudulent practice.”

However, Managing Director of Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ascanio Russo, has stoutly denied the complainant’s allegation.
Responding to enquiries by SHIP & PORTS DAILY, Russo stated: “With reference to the mail sent to Ships & Ports by the complainant on alleged fraudulent activities committed by Grimaldi Agency Nigeria and our sister company Ports & Terminal Multiservice Ltd, we would like to stress as a starting point that both our companies are reputable, law abiding corporate entities whose major shareholder – Grimaldi Lines – is a multinational shipping group which has committed significant investment in Nigeria, providing employment to thousands of people in this country.
“The principles which guide our operations in Nigeria include honesty, trust and integrity, openness, performance orientation, responsibility and accountability, mutual respect and social commitment. We do believe in the rule of law and we conduct our business in line with best international practices. We therefore strongly reject as insulting and injurious the claims that through alleged and unproven fraudulent practices we’re taking advantage of our customers.

“Concerning the merit of the allegations please let me address the issues raised as follows:
1. The M/V Grande Ghana 1210 commenced operations on 27th December 2012 at 1050. The vessels had on board 1,906 vehicles, mainly used. The discharging of these vehicles was completed on 28th December 2012 at 1900; by any standard the rate of vehicles discharged per hour was very high. Therefore the claim that the cars on the vessel were not offloaded until late hours on Friday 28th December is false;
2. On Saturday 29th December we worked as usual and delivered 137 vehicles from the Main Terminal and 231 vehicles from our off-dock facility at Mile 2: a total of 368 vehicles. The last vehicle was delivered at 1750. Therefore the claim that there was no customs on Saturday 29th December is false;
3. Of the total 368 vehicles delivered on Saturday 29th December, 151 were discharged from Grande Ghana 1210. None of these vehicles paid any storage;
4. On Monday 31st December, we delivered 82 vehicles from the Main Terminal and 102 vehicles from our off-dock facility at mile 2. The last vehicle was delivered at 1640. By that time there was no customers to attend to. Therefore the claim that we closed at 1200 is false;
5. The 3 days free storage period has been regularly applied and there was no manipulation as it is alleged in the message. The fact that 151 were delivered on Saturday without any payment proves the point.
“Therefore the claim that we imposed payment of storage because there was an alleged delay in discharge is false. Confident that this email has clarified all the issues raised by the complainant, we would like to reiterate that we reject any unsubstantiated claim, founded on vague allegation of illegal charges, fraudulent practices etc. All our charges are raised against services rendered and their implementation is in line with the best international practices on terminal and agency management and in the full respect of Nigerian Law.”

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