The criminal acts were so deep-rooted to the extent that millions of United States Dollars were looted at the detriment of the government of Liberia. Hence, in 2010, the Liberian government saw the need to concession the cargo handling responsibilities of the National Port Authority to an international container terminal operating company- APM Terminals for 25 years.
The deal which was intended to scare thieves away by putting in place a regimented system that will clampdown on criminal activities and reduce container storage time seems faltering as private citizens lose their valued cargoes under the nose of the APM Terminals and Custom Brokers at the Freeport of Monrovia. The experience of a female humanitarian, Edwina Taylor is a classic case that points to the unending broad day banditry still taking place in the cargo handling chain at the Freeport of Monrovia.
Speaking in an interview with The Capitol Times, the Liberian humanitarian said:“In May 2016 I shipped a Renault 2001 cooling van with its contents to Liberia from The Netherlands. The contents within the van were documented by the shipping agent. Upon receipt of my van by my colleague in Monrovia outside of the port at Total Gas station, not only was the van empty of its contents but also damaged on the outside due to careless driving from the port to Total Gas station.”
She indicated that the painful part of the theft is that she had just paid US$2,000.00 as requested by Custom Broker Ivan Tumbey.
According to her, the vehicle was not released three weeks later and an additional US$600.00 was accrued as storage fees.
“The request for extra payment for storage is the part I could not understand because the broker had the money three weeks earlier to clear the van and its contents to avoid storage fees. Despite my concern, I arranged for the US$600 to be paid to the broker the very next day. He still refused to release the car documents to me stating that I owe him money,” Edwina narrated.
The Liberian humanitarian stated that few days later, the van came out of the port and was delivered to her designee at the Total Gas Station at Freeport because according to the broker, he was not allowed to go into the port to take possession of the van and to make sure that all was intact. Edwina added that the refusal of the broker to allow her agent to take the vehicle from the port was deliberate so that her designee colleague would not see what was going on.
“When my colleague opened the back of the van, he discovered that the entire contents were stolen, gone, only a few remnants the thieves left behind. I have pictures to prove that. Not only was I wrongfully charged for storage fees but it seems like I paid the additional US$600 to give the thieves ample time to break into my van and steal its contents at the port,” she pointed out.
When contacted, broker Ivan Tumbey acknowledged doing business with Edwina Taylor but argued that he was only asked to collect the van from the port. According to him, he did not care to know the contents.
Mr. Tumbey who is now the President of the National Custom Broker Association of Liberia told this paper via mobile that he was hired to get the van from the port through a third party only identified as Anita who works with "Cape Van Hill" company.
“The person designated by Edwina to pay the money and pick up the van has never met me before. We spoke on phone once but never met,” the broker said.
He continued that if the humanitarian lady can show the bill of landing and those items that are actually missing, the shipping company could be held responsible to pay for the stolen items.
When contacted, APM Terminal said " Thank you for your email. Please note that Madam Edwina Taylor vehicle was delivered to her Broker/Clearing Agent.
The vehicle was delivered as received. Our Way-Bill (signed by her Clearing Agent) reflects this information. A few days after the vehicle was delivered to Madam Edwina Taylor Clearing Agent, she sent us the below claim.
APM Terminals policy is very clear: all claims/ concerns should be raised prior to taking delivery of cargo. Not a few days after the cargo was delivered and out of the port.
Hope this clarifies your concern as the above information have been duly communicated to Madam Edwina Taylor."
Bureau of Veritas (BIVAC), one of the parties in the handling of the container,has since refused to make available their inspection document.
APM Terminals began operations at the Port of Monrovia in February 2011 under a 25-year concession agreement for the privatization of the port concluded in 2010. Under the terms of the agreement, USD $120 million will be invested in port upgrades, with over USD $100 million invested to date.According to the APM Terminals' "Vehicle Discharge List" in the possession of this paper, the van was discharged on June 30, 2016.
The contract/proforma invoice from All Round Shipping VerrijnStuartweg 95 Diemen NETHERLANDS states that the cargo included RENAULT MASTER, VV039H, VF6VFE4A144182307, 46 USED TYRES, 5 BAGS OF USED CLOTHES and 2 SET OF CHAIRS.
Experts in the shipping industry has opined that the situation narrated by Edwina speaks of a scaring scenario that must be looked into seriously not only because a lady has lost her belonging but the act could intimidate other Liberians in Diaspora from wanting to help their countrymen back home.