Shippers issue ultimatum over 1,000% hike in freight charges
The Shipping Trade Practitioners’ Association of Nigeria (STPAON) on Sunday issued a 48 hours ultimatum to authorities at the Port Harcourt Port to reverse the recent increase in tariff on cargoes at the port.
The group said that Port and Terminal Operators Nigeria Limited (PTOL) had on April 1 reviewed upward tariff on cargoes in every vessel that was offloaded at the port from N8 million to N89 million.
The association threatened to seek legal redress if PTOL failed to revert to the old tariff.
Mr Babalola James, acting Spokesman for STPAON, told newsmen in Port Harcourt on Sunday that the over 1,000 per cent increment had grounded economic activities at the port.
“The Federal Government which gave concession rights to PTOL to manage the Port Harcourt port mandated the company to always engage port stakeholders on any policy change.
“But regrettable, PTOL went ahead and increased the rate on April 1 without following the stipulations in the act that gave it the concession right.
“As an association, we are saying that PTOL does not have the legal right to increase tariff arbitrarily without engaging with port stakeholders,” stated.
James said at the inception of the new tariff, the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), the Police and other stakeholders met with PTOL management to resolve the unfolding disagreement.
James claimed that at the meeting PTOL management agreed with stakeholders to inaugurate a joint standing committee to examine the new tariff increase and make recommendations.
According to him, the committee later resolved that PTOL should revert to the old tariff as well as refund all excess payments already paid by some of STPAON members.
“The committee also resolved that PTOL should provide seamless port services devoid of delays in order to facilitate and actualise ease of doing business at the port.
“Unfortunately, PTOL has refused to implement the agreement reached by the joint committee to ensure industrial harmony.
“STPAON hereby gives 48 hours ultimatum to PTOL to implement the agreement rechead by the joint committee,” he said.
The STPAON spokesman said that failure by PTOL to implement the agreement would result in the association seeking redress in court.
According to James the actions of PTOL has denied the federal government billions of naira as revenue from port services.
“We call on the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, Executive Secretary of NSC, Hassan Bello, NPA, EFCC and DSS, among others to intervene on the matter,” he appealed.
On his part, the Patron of STPAON, Kingsley Nwulu, said the actions of PTOL had increased the financial burden on citizens and businesses at the Port Harcourt port.
He advised the company to operate within the limited price provided to them in the concession agreement.
“Even NPA itself runs the port on subsidised rate so that Nigerians can afford to get any cargo that comes into the port.
“This is why in the lease agreement, it was stated clearly that PTOL should communicate any tariff increase through writing to NPA and NSC to make recommendations,” he added.