Tension at Port Harcourt port as shipping agents accuse dockworkers of wringing their arms and killing patronage of eastern ports

By DAPO OLAWUNI

The Maritime Trade Practitioners Association of Nigeria (STPAON) has alleged that dockworkers under the umbrella of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) were the real reasons why importers have abandoned eastern ports, this is due to their incessant demands and allegations of arm twisting. importers and shipping agents.

Port Harcourt port union leaders also reportedly acted unchecked, in the form of robbery and financial ambush against port stakeholders.

This follows recent tensions at the port of Port Harcourt, where the union is said to have threatened to take strike action over alleged refusal by terminal operators; PTOL and BUA Terminal to hire MWUN members as Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men.

In a conversation with DAILY TREND on Monday, STPAON Acting Public Relations Officer Dr Babalola James said that MWUN had threatened to cripple commercial activities at the port of Port Harcourt from today, Tuesday 20 September, due to the refusal of the two terminal operators to give in to its demands.

Dr Babalola, however, criticized the union’s demands, arguing that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had paid for onboard security and counted Clarks and also interrupted the contract now.

The association called on Transport Minister Eng Muazu Jaji Sambo to intervene in the situation and protect the interests of the Nigerian economy.

DAILY TREND reports that two weeks ago, MWUN challenged the NPA’s authority to withhold payment for Tally Clerks and security men on board, arguing that they are not registered with it, but with NIMASA.

In a letter circulated to shipping companies and terminals dated August 22, 2022 and signed by MWUN General Secretary Comrade Felix Akingboye, the union argued that Section 27(1) of the NIMASA Act 2007 provides that all dockers must be certified and registered by NIMASA. .

The letter reads in part “Under this provision, therefore, it becomes unlawful/unlawful for any terminal operator or shipping agent to engage the services of any UNREGISTERED on-board security guard.
“The Act in 27(4) even provides for a fine of one million (N1,000,000.00) for any labor employer who hires Dockworkers NOT registered and certified by the Agency, that is- i.e. NIMASA,
Similarly, Section 27 (3) of the Act also imposes a fine of Fifty Thousand (50,000.00 Naira) on any person who is NOT a Dockworker who engages in the formation of dock work at a port , terminal offshore platforms or terminals in Nigeria”

“While we note with displeasure that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has continued and refuses to process the payment of salaries of security guards on board ships on the basis of freight dues paid by shipping agents, we wish to reiterate once again that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) does not have the power to stop the employment of security guards on board registered vessels”

Meanwhile, the STPAON spokesperson told our correspondent that Dock Labor began enforcing the contents of his letter on Saturday 9/17/22.

“Our association was called NPA, NIMASA, Shippers Council and also called the Minister of Transport. The agencies then contacted union headquarters and the action to halt unloading operations over the weekend was lifted”
“But yesterday being Monday afternoon, I got a call from PTOL that Port Harcourt union executives called the 2 terminals; PTOL and BUA for a meeting where labor issued the threat of strike action if their demand for a commitment to onboard security and pool tally is not implemented.

“Users and port officials are all worried about this as it challenges the ease of doing business and patronage of eastern ports.

“Dockers seem to be operating out of control in the form of financial robbery and ambush where they want to lock up importers, shipping agents and terminals for them to consider giving financial inducements to work or perhaps forcibly hire agents safety and clocking on board ships.

“It will surprise you to find that Port Harcourt Port’s workforce executives were part of the reason for low traffic at Port Harcourt Port due to too many demands and strains on the arms of importers and shipping agents.

“An example is seen on general cargo which requires no anomalies and group booking of labor to work during unloading operations, but labor excos which played no part in the process will come and demand payment from the importer and the ship’s agent for what they didn’t.They call it RP.

“Even the cargo that required them to go on standby for gap work; they will reserve and collect payment and no labor will show up for work, especially on referrer ships, bulk wheat, salt, sugar, among others.

“The union must be subdued and its excesses reduced to enable the efforts of the Minister of Transport and his many establishments to produce the desired fruits and dividends for the users of the port, the general public and the Nigerian economy as a whole,” did he declare.
When contacted by DAILY TREND, President of the MWUN Dockers Branch, Comrade Tajudeen Ohize confirmed that the union had threatened terminal operators over their refusal to engage the Clarks count and onboard security .

“I was told that they fully complied with what we expected of them. Lagos terminals also complied. This is a national request, not just a Port Harcourt problem.
We started it from Lagos for the last two weeks”

“While we were on strike before, it was the IOC, on the issue of tally clerks and on-board security, we have not called any strikes so far.

The senior MWUN official said the old contract with the NPA had been politically terminated, arguing that according to Clarks the work of the dockworkers cannot be complete.

“That’s why most of the cargo entering the ports is no longer properly checked, and it still mentions our names,” he said.