Terminal Operators Waive N1.5bn Charges On Stranded TCN Containers

Container terminal operators at Nigeria’s seaports have waived N1.5 billion on 500 containers carrying power equipment belonging to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). The terminal operators under the auspices of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) said yesterday that they decided to waive the amount on the TCN containers in support of the federal government’s efforts to ensure steady supply of electricity in the country. STOAN’s spokesman, Bolaji Akinola said, “We are not unmindful of the fact that electricity is the most important commodity for national development. Stable electric power supply is an empowerment and an enabler for people to work from the domestic level and the cottage industries, through the small-scale and medium industries to employment in the large-scale manufacturing complexes. “We took this bold step in support of the government’s effort to ensure steady power supply and accelerate economic development. In April 2016, the office of the Vice President set up a committee comprising of the Ministers of Finance, Transport, Power, Works and Housing, along with the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service to look into the stranded power equipment containers in the ports. “As a result, terminal operators and shipping lines were invited to a meeting on April 5, 2016 at the office of the Minister of Power, Works & Housing. We agreed at the meeting to a 50 percent storage waiver ending April 30th 2016 for the power projects while the shipping lines agreed to 75 per cent waiver on demurrage. “The government however could not make payments for the containers and storage continued to accrue and then, we were called again to a meeting on 1st September 2016. Because we are committed to the well being of Nigeria and Nigerians, we still went ahead to honour the April 2016 agreement. The implication of this was that we had to waive additional charges that accrued as storage over another one year period from April 2016 to when payment was made in March 2017”. The federal government confirmed in January 2017 that it had taken delivery of the 500 power equipment containers from the port. The Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, made the announcement while receiving a 20-year Transmission Expansion Master Plan presented by the interim managing director of TCN, Usman Gur Mohammed, in Abuja. Fashola said the containers containing transmission equipment had been deployed to TCN sites, adding that the delivery of the containers was in line with a presidential mandate to improve the capacity of TCN to deliver service between power generating companies (GENCOs) and power distribution companies (DISCOs). Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) will not contest the Court of Appeal judgment asking the terminal operators to refund N1trillion in excess charges to the federal government. A Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos had upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court in the case between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) over shipping charges. In her judgment, Justice Chidi Nwaoma Uwa of the Court of Appeal, Lagos dismissed the appeal of STOAN and upheld the counter claim of the second respondent, Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS). The dismissal of STOAN’s appeal by the appellate court means that the Progressive Storage Charge would reverse to the rate approved by the Transport Ministry in 2009 for the terminal operators. Also, container free Storage Period would increase from three days to seven days to compete favourably with neighbouring ports of Cotonou, Ghana, Gambia and Cameroun. The Container Demurrage-free days equally increased to 10 days while Container Deposit, which importers and freight forwarders complained about, would henceforth be refunded within 10 days after the empties had been returned to the shipping companies. EYES OF LAGOS findings shows that the terminal operators are ready to dialogue with the shippers and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on the N1trillion the court asked the operators to refund to the FG. A reliable source told our correspondent that there are plans by the terminal operators to dialogue with the shippers and the NSC because there is no fund on ground for the refund. The source who did not want his name in print urged the federal government to look into some challenges fueling increase in charges by terminal operators. “Where is the N1 trillion? There is no money anywhere to refund but we are hoping to discuss but it is when the discussion doesn’t go well that we will be looking at appealing the appellate court judgment but hopefully it will be sorted out. The money is supposed to go back to the shippers but government want to hijack it.

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