Home Maritime Court fixes Dec 17 for ruling in Shippers’ Council, terminal operators’ case

Court fixes Dec 17 for ruling in Shippers’ Council, terminal operators’ case

A Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Monday adjourned a case brought against the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) by the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) till Dec. 17 for ruling.
Justice Ibrahim Buba said if thecourt was not ready by Dec. 17, he would inform all the parties represented in the suit before the day.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that STOAN filed the suit against the NSC on Nov. 10, shortly after Justice Buba, on technical grounds, struck out a similar case.
STOAN had earlier filed a suit against the NSC over progressive storage charges at the ports.
It (STOAN) obtained an injunction on Oct. 31, restraining the NSC from acting upon a notice it published in the newspapers on October 29 reversing storage charges to what obtained in May 2009.
Tn the publication, NSC ordered an increase in the free storage period at the ports from three days to seven days.
It (NSC) equally 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 TEU.
The NSC also directed shipping agencies to refund container deposits to importers and agents within 10 working days after the return of the empty containers.
The Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Femi Atoyebi, said the action of the NSC in its publication was not within the ambit of the law.
“Under the Ports Law, it is the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that is the regulator of the port and if the law changes, it should have been reflected in the law through the NPA,’’ Atoyebi said.
He said that until “the NSC has the statutory backing of the law, it cannot assume the role of ports economic regulator’’.
In his response, counsel to NSC, Mr Tunde Ogungbamila, said the originating summons filed by the plaintiff was incompetent.
Ogungbamila urged the court to strike out the case for lack of competence arguing that it did not challenge the status of NSC as the port economic regulator.
“The Shippers’ Council was conferred with the economic regulator status via a letter of approval from the Federal Ministry of Transport in February 2014,’’ he said.
The Counsel to the second defendant, Mr Osuala Nwagbara, said the NPA, the NSC and the terminal operators, all negotiated the charges in 2009.
Nwagbara said the plaintiff increased the ports’ terminal charges without the approval of both the NPA and the NSC.

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