Clearing agents, maritime workers clash over freight charges

Clearing agents, maritime workers clash over freight charges

A proposed increase in freight charges has caused conflict between members of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and clearing agents.

The President General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, on Wednesday, cited members’ welfare, among others as reasons for the proposed upward review of the freight charges.

The union threatened to shut down port operations if the Nigerian Shippers Council and other relevant agencies failed to approve the planned tariff hike.

Adeyanju argued that reviewing the tariff upward would enable terminal operators to implement the collective bargaining agreement the union signed with terminal operators.

“It has to do with the welfare of dockworkers because some of their employers are complaining of low traffic, low movement of containers, low vessels coming in and going out. We all know what is going on in the ports currently and they said that for the past 10 years, their tariff has not been adjusted. And when we are going for collective bargaining agreement, they will tie so many things to it. So, there is nothing like a misconception on this matter. We are only saying the obvious thing.”

However, clearing agents under the aegis of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders on Thursday kicked against the move by the maritime workers union.

The Vice President of the association, Nnadi Ugochukwu, said, “Are the terminal operators saying that it is because of the increment that they have not been able to take care of their terminals? Is there any relationship between the increment in freight charges and MWUN or do they want to reap where they did not cultivate? This is an attempt to blackmail the shippers council.”

The Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, TinCan Island Chapter, Mr Ojo Akintoye, also said, “Are they the one to propose for the increment in freight charges? Let them shut down the ports. Heaven will not fall. We are going to kick against it. Are they the ones to pay? If they are talking about the wages for their members, how does that concern freight forwarders? How is that our business? If they want to shut down the port, they can go ahead but I can assure you that it would not see the light of day. We are going to kick against it completely.”

According to the Director of Consumers Affairs, NSC, Mr Cajethan Agu, there are modalities for tariff review at terminals.

“There are some rules and regulations on how to do things. If any of the regulated service providers has any cause to increase its charges, it will hire shippers council. The council will sit down and the regulated service provider do a review. If there is a justification to increase, approval will be given and if there is no justification, approval will be withdrawn. I am sure they have been writing in the past and there were some reviews and sometimes approval were given and sometimes withdrawn,” he explained.

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