Following the reopening of its terminal by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the management of Clarion Bonded Terminal, has announced that it has granted its customers four days waiver to ensure evacuation of trapped containers from the terminal.
The Legal Adviser of the company, Mr. Emmanuel Osonwa, made this known to newsmen in Lagos on the sideline of the company's management courtesy visit to the headquarters of the Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC) in Lagos.
Osonwa said the waiver was to ameliorate the suffering of its customers whose containers were trapped when Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) sealed up the terminal in June.
He said that as at the time of sealing the terminal, they had close to 4,000 containers and had no prior notice of closure of the terminal.
He said that the Controller KLT Customs Command on June 11 came and alleged that illegal activities were going on in the terminal and that Clarion did not have approval from the NCS to operate the bonded terminal.
Osonwa said the terminal was sealed and the Customs Command wrote a letter to their headquarters that they had sealed the terminal pending the directive on what should be done.
He said the KLT Customs Command noted that the terminal was only directed to handle empty container transaction.
Osonwa said after investigations were carried out, which started from June 11 till July 3, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company was given a clean bill.
Consequently, he said that on July 4, the terminal was unsealed for business and, "all workers moved back to ensure that customers' containers were evacuated."
This, he explained, necessitated the granting of waiver to help those who had concluded their papers clear their containers.
"This was done to enable customers who are ready to move their containers to do so. Nobody was called to pay any demurrage but you know that some customers will go and 'sleep' and so we notified them to come and take delivery of their containers. Those that were ready before the sealing will not pay any demurrage.
Those of them that have not paid any duty will not fall into the ambit of people that are exempted.
"From the day the terminal was sealed to the day it was opened, we are giving additional four days because it will not be practicable for some people to tidy up what they should have done before the sealing of the terminal.
"Since opening on July 3, we worked July 4 and 5 and we are operating 24 hours to ensure that customers move their containers out," he said.
Osonwa noted that the management wanted to assure the customers that they were still doing their timely and expeditious job before this happened, urging them to be mindful of 'Act of Princes'.
He described the 'Act of Princes' as a term in maritime, one of the points that could lead to 'force majeure' in any contract in maritime shipping.
"'Force majeure' being an unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. Customs' actions rightly or wrongly, constitute what we call Act of Princes. It is not our fault or making; we are doing our legal job and this happened," he said.
Osonwa noted that customers already knew that some of their goods coming through the barges from Apapa were stalled when NCS gave the order and everything stopped.
He added that even the containers loaded on trucks before the sealing of the terminal were still at the port and only evacuated on July 4.
"We know Customs officers as people who want to maintain standards and some form of discipline in respect of their revenue. We knew we did not have any problem, so we decided to seek reasons for the sealing; even though we were not given any form of notice before that was done. We seek peace and we are glad that we are back to work," he explained.