Sequel to earlier warnings, the Nigerian Ports Authority has made good its threat by slamming a ten-day suspension of the services of four multinational shipping companies operating in the country comprising Maerskline, Cosco Shipping, APS and Lansal over their failure to provide holding bays as agreed by stakeholders November last year.

The authority had earlier in the week warned that it would apply severe sanctions and penalties on all shipping companies and terminal operators that fail to comply with stakeholders’ agreement on the provision and use of holding bays.

This is in line with an agreement reached between NPA and stakeholders comprising shipping companies and terminal operators in November, 2017 on the provision of holding bays for their containers, which is also part of the newly adopted truck call-up system, designed to rid the port access roads and environs of gridlock.

In a statement signed by the Assistant General Manager Corporate & Strategic Communications, Mallam Isah Suwaid on behalf of the General Manager Corporate & Strategic Communications, the authority said that the managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman has approved the suspension of the four shipping lines with effect from Saturday, July 14, 2018, which is for the first instance, as it will review the level of compliance and may be extended if they fail to comply.

It was gathered that the suspension of the four shipping companies was sequel to the discovery by the authority that the affected service providers have failed to comply with the directive to acquire and operate holding bays. According to the statement, these four culprits have either failed to utilise their existing holding bays or do not have adequate capacity at all to handle the volume of containers at their disposal.

The statement reads in part: “Some of these companies have also been found to import a larger number of containers than empty containers exported thereby making the country a dumping ground for empties. These conducts have contributed to the persistent congestion around the Lagos Port Complex LPC and the Tin Can Island Port TCIP, which is now spreading to other parts of the Lagos metropolis where truck drivers with no immediate business at the ports now park their trucks on the express roads.

“Stakeholders have agreed that while the call-up system administered by NPA, as advised by shipping companies will remain in force, personnel of the Nigerian Navy will discontinue the issuance of call ups, even though they will remain on the traffic management team.

“Finally, the authority wishes to state that the planned introduction of a new charge called ‘empty positioning charge’ by shipping lines is illegal and should not be honoured by any operator”.

As part of measures to ensure strict compliance, the NPA said it would henceforth embarking on regular compliance checks of the operations of holding bays by shipping companies and terminal operators, insisting that no defaulter will be spared.

Recall that the NPA MD, had following the strike action, which was suspended yesterday embarked upon by truck drivers, commenced talks with the leaderships of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria MWUN and the Association of Maritime Truck Owners AMATO with a view to resolving the issues, including non -provision of holding bays.

The NPA-boss had at the meeting held Wednesday, this week, informed the stakeholders that the authority has launched an investigation into the level of compliance or non-compliance to the agreements reached between it, shipping companies and terminal operators and warned that any company found to have contravened this agreement will be sanctioned appropriately.