Analysis: Why Tin-Can Port has become importers’ nightmare
Doing business at the Tin-Can Island Port, Nigeria’s second-busiest seaport after Apapa has become a hard nut to crack for port users in recent years due to several factors.
Consequently, these factors not only contribute to the delay port users experience on a daily basis while clearing and evacuating import and export of goods, but also result in the high cost of doing business for cargo owners and their agents.
Here are five reasons an average Nigerian importer dread doing business at the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos:
The existence of illegal checkpoints for the sole purpose of collecting tolls from port users is one of the major challenges importers face at Tin-Can Island axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
Currently, there exist more than five checkpoints between the First and Second Gates bus stops at the Tin-Can Island man by miscreants who forcefully collect illegal tolls from truck drivers. This is in addition to several other toll-gates mounted by security operatives that control truck movement in and out of the port.
These thugs stop trucks coming out of the port at each checkpoint and compel them to pay a toll.
According to Kashim Alim, a truck driver, these miscreants extort as much as N500 from each truck driver passing through the checkpoints.
“Once we move out of the MOB Truck Park, and try to turn at the Tin-Can First Gate, we usually meet at least five checkpoints manned by thugs and they collect tolls from us. If you refuse to give them money, they will beat you up with weapons,” Alim said.
Unending road repairs
For several years, the Tin-Can Island area of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, which is the major access into the Tin-Can Port, has not been motorable. This has been blamed for the protracted gridlock along the port axis, which caused the Federal Ministry of Works to start repair works on the port side of the road in 2020.
Sadly, the reconstruction work has moved at a slow pace for several months as it was discovered that the company handling it hardly completes a portion of the road before moving on to another portion.
This had been making it difficult for importers and their agents to seamlessly evacuate released cargoes from the port. And with the difficulty in evacuating cargoes, the turnaround time of vessels calling the Tin-Can Port is also delayed, thereby affecting port operations generally.
Protracted traffic congestion
Another reason many importers and their agents dread doing business at the Tin-Can Island Port is the protracted traffic congestion on the road leading to the port.
The gridlock on the access road to Tin-Can has been the major problem affecting businesses at the port. It also limits the port from achieving efficient operations.
This is compounded by the long queues of the container-carrying trucks struggling to gain access into the port on a daily basis.
Tony Anakebe, a clearing and forwarding expert, confirms that transportation in and out of Tin-Can Port has not been easy, such that returning empty containers to terminals at the Port can take up to four weeks due to the illegal checkpoints and road reconstruction on the Tin-Can axis of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
“Despite the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) policy of not returning empty containers to the port, some shipping lines still mandate shippers to bring their containers to the port. For instance, an importer that uses Grimaldi Shipping must return the empty to their terminal at PTML, and it will take more than three weeks, which means that the importer must pay for the three weeks demurrage,” he says.
According to Anakebe, importers still take containers belonging to MSC to Tin-Can Port as well, and this is why many truckers do not like to lift containers belonging to MSC.
Nearness to tank farms
Experts have raised an alarm to the possible dangers associated with having several tank farms surrounding the seaports in Lagos, particularly the Tin-Can Port. This has been a source of concern as industry stakeholders described it as ‘a time bomb waiting to explode.’
This has also been a contributory factor resulting in the unending traffic congestion in the Tin-Can axis, owing to the number of tankers that access the many tank farms located between Sun Rise-Coconut and the Tin-Can Island area.
“We are concerned about the predominance of tank farms in Apapa, which is a port area and a high-density town. With more than 60 tank farms operating in the area, the ports, the workers, and residents of Apapa are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. We pray it does not explode, so we appeal to the Federal Government to urgently see to the relocation of these tank farms to avert future carnage,” states Vicky Haastrup, chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN).
She says tank farms should be located several miles away from the city and from the port area for safety reasons.
In addition, pundits have called for the use of pipelines in the evacuation of imported petroleum products to depots.
They say there should be a way to handle the volume of tankers coming to that axis to access the tank farms in the interim.
No rail connection
The use of rail lines has been seen as one of the effective and seamless ways of evacuating cargoes from ports to warehouses.
Presently, there is no rail track connecting Apapa Port where there is an existing line with Tin-Can Island Port. This has almost cancelled the use of rail line in evacuating containers from the Tin-Can Port.