NSC: Court stops Port Regulator from reversing charges

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SENATOR ZAINAB KURE

…We will comply- NSC Image-maker

The powers of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as the nation’s port regulator may soon be rendered totally ineffective, as a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Monday,’ bared the Council from implementing an earlier order reversing storage charges at Nigerian seaports.

Minister of Transport, Idris Umar
Minister of Transport, Idris Umar

This was sequel to ruling on an ex-parte motion brought by the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), before the Court, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba; and  resulting in its securing an injunction restraining the NSC and/or its agents from implementing the reversal order, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council
Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council

Members of the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) similarly secured at the weekend, a court injunction restraining the Nigerian Shippers’ Council from acting upon a notice it published last Wednesday, slashing the shipping lines’ agency charges, among others.

Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium
Princess Vicky Haastrup, C.E.O ENL Consultium

Ruling on an ex-parte motion brought before him on behalf of the terminal operators 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.

The NSC had 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 similarly 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.

Specifically, Justice Ibrahim Buba in granting a similar injunction in favour of the Association of Shipping Line Agencies (ASLA) made up of 12 shipping line agencies operating in Nigeria, had adjourned the matter to Monday 10th November 2014 for further hearing.

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.

Members of the ASLA 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 NSC in the publication, reversing storage charges at the ports to that which was in force as at May 1, 2009 also ordered an increase in the free storage period at the port from three days to seven days, in addition to equally directing the shipping companies to slash 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.

Contacted for a reaction, the  Shippers’ Council, through it image maker, Deputy Director, Ignatius Nweke assured that the Council, as a law abiding body would comply with the  Federal High Court order.

“We will comply. As a law-abiding agency of government, we will not do anything to undermine the judiciary”, he further explained, in telephone chat, with the Maritime First, on Monday.

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