• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria needs seamless cargo evacuation modes to decongest Lagos ports

Lagos ports

With the alarming rate of congestion in terminals as well as persistent traffic gridlock on roads leading to seaports in Lagos, Nigeria needs to look inward to adopt a sustainable and seamless mode of cargo evacuation in order to enhance efficiency, analysts say.

For them, Nigeria must begin to use a combination of rail, barges on inland waters and road, to not only decongest Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports, but to also make the cost of haulage very competitive.
Presently, Apapa Port is experiencing 90 percent yard occupancy, which shows that there is congestion and longer dwell time for imports. This has also affected waiting time of vessels, as ships now spend between 30 and 50 days on Nigerian waters before being able to berth at the port.

BusinessDay check shows that due to challenges in accessing the port to lift cleared cargoes, the costs of transporting containers from the ports in Lagos to importers’ warehouses have continued to hit the roof top.

For instance, shippers pay as much as N1 million and above to transport containers to nearby city like Ibadan, while haulage from port to warehouses in Lagos cost between N500,000 and N800,000, but with less than N400,000 a container can be moved by barge or rail.

Hadiza Bala-Usman, managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), who is of the view that Nigerian ports cannot function well if 90 percent of import and export cargoes are moved by road, says there is need for Nigerian importers to make use of intermodal transport system in evacuating their goods.

“Evacuating cargoes using the waterways and rail would be a very significant development that would strengthen intermodal transportation system. Economically, it would mean a lot to the nation’s economy, especially as regards to the fact that one of the major concerns for port users revolves around the huge revenue loss to congestion on the roads leading to ports in Lagos,” she notes.

According to Bala-Usman, the Port Authority believes that a certain percentage of Nigerian cargoes must be off the road for sanity to be restored within the port environment.

She further states that about 30 percent of cargoes that come into Nigeria must be moved through alternative transport system, such as inland waterways using barges and railway.

“Allowing all our cargoes go on the road is what keeps our roads in the state it is today. Having a port that only evacuates cargo by road is inefficient, and will continue to create congestion,” she says.

Ibraheem Olugbade, executive director, SIFAX Off-Dock, who points to the need for port users to adopt the option of barge transportation for the movement of consignments, says the challenges of port congestion and persistent traffic caused by bad access roads would drastically reduce if alternatives to road transportation are encouraged by shipping lines and agents.

“Shipping lines and agents should be encouraged to key into the use of barges for transfer in view of the poor state of the port access roads. Aggressive transfer of cargoes through barges to the various off docks in and outside Lagos will help decongest the port and help the port reach its maximum potentials,” Olugbade states.

According to Olugbade, there is also need for the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and other relevant agencies of government to execute the policy of establishing inland container depots (ICDs) in various parts of the country with more vigour, as this will provide a very important leeway for the decongestion of Nigerian ports.

On the indiscriminate siting of off docks terminals in Lagos, Olugbade, however calls on relevant government agencies to strictly enforce the policies that guide the location of off-dock terminals in Lagos State, in order to avoid environmental hazards that could be caused by unregulated clustering of such facility in one location.

On evacuation of cargo by barges, George Moghalu, managing director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), says in Lagos that the authority is determined to ensure that Nigerian inland waters become navigable so that barges can be used to move goods.

He confirms that moving some containerised goods through the waters would help to reduce pressure on the port, decongest the seaport because barges have capacity to move as much as 50 to 100 containers at once.

“This means that 50 to 100 trucks would be moved out of the port roads. This is why we are focusing on ensuring that containers are moved by barges to inland dry ports outside the seaport environments. All these would help to achieve port efficiency as well as cost effectiveness,” he says.

Edeme Kelikume, president, Barge Operators Association Nigeria (BOAN), who describes the congestion on the roads to Apapa port as an embracement to Nigeria, states that there are expectations that more cargoes would be taken off the road through the usage of barges.

This, he notes, will result in reduction of the number of trucks on the roads to Apapa because barges have the capacity to move 80 to 90 containers at once.

He however calls on government to compel shipping liners to provide holding-bays for empty containers in order to ease dropping of empties.