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How SIFAX’S investment in bounded terminal eases cargo clearance from Lagos Ports

Over the years, traffic congestion within Apapa and Tin-can Island Ports has continued to go from bad to worse. This has resulted to long man-hour loss for port users such that cargo owners and residents spend quality time on the road while trying to have access into Apapa port city. To ease the impact of Apapa gridlock on importers and exporters that rely on ports in Lagos for business, forward thinking companies such as SIFAX Group has invested heavily on off-dock facilities also known as bounded terminals to facilitate cargo clearing and evacuation. AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE reports.

Inland container terminals, popularly known as bounded terminals, are facilities located outside the seaport where containers can be moved for onward Customs examination, clearing and release in order to reduce or avert congestion in the main seaport terminals.

Usually, once there is 70 percent yard occupancy at the port terminal, it means there is need to stem some of the laden containers to bounded terminals that are licensed by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in order to decongest the port yard.

Presently, Apapa port is experiencing 90 percent yard occupancy, which shows that there is congestion and longer dwell time for imports. This is why the SIFAX Container Terminal at Ijora Causeway, Lagos is coming at time when it’s needed and holds high hopes and opportunities for consignees.

With the terminal, which is located along the Ebute Metta Creek in Ijora, Lagos, importers doing business in Apapa and Tin-can Island Ports can now heave a sigh of relief as consignees can now avoid the dreaded Apapa gridlock by designating their cargoes to the new terminal where containers can be stemmed from the main seaports using barges.

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Registered under the Apapa Command of the NCS, the terminal is well equipped with the right facilities, equipment and experienced personnel that can make loading and offloading of cargoes a great experience. The equipment include – reach stackers, forklifts, CCTV, empty and full container handlers, and well secured with both private security guards and men of the Nigerian Police Force.

Findings show that the terminal is run using the globally-tested OSCAR terminal operating system which allows easier location and retrieval of containers. Also, personnel with industry experience spanning many years in the profession of handling containers with good customer service would be on ground to deliver best value to consignees. The terminal’s billing system positioned, and the staff well trained to work through multiple service points for fast service delivery.

At the recent commissioning of the terminal in Lagos last week, Taiwo Afolabi, group executive vice chairman of SIFAX Group, said the company decided to invest in the facility to make the process of cargo clearing a wonderful experience as opposed to what is obtainable in the main ports.

Afolabi, who was represented by Adekunle Oyinloye, group managing director, SIFAX Group, said the new terminal, which would be a model and sits on 11 acres of land, will leverage on technology and innovations to deliver an unparalleled customer experience as well as cutting-edge inland container services.

“The SIFAX Container Terminal, Ijora, Lagos is our modest response to a major issue in the maritime industry – access to Lagos ports. The logistics nightmare in Apapa caused by the traffic congestion experienced by port users compelled the group to look for a solution that addresses the seemingly intractable problem. With this terminal, agents, truckers and consignees do not have to go to the ports before getting their consignments cleared,” he said.

On the unique advantages of the terminal, Afolabi said consignment would be transferred primarily through barges from Apapa and Tin-can Island ports, adding that the good road network in the area also offers clients faster and efficient cargo clearing.

“This terminal is It-driven because the Group has decided to invest in technology to sustain quality service delivery to our clients.” Afolabi further said.

One of the advantages of the facility, according to Businessday check, is that the Group’s flagship businessPorts & Cargo Handling Services Limited, located at Terminal C, Tin-can Island Port, will be able to stem cargo to the terminal using barge, addition to about 100 modern trucks owned by the logistics subsidiary of the Group, which can move consignments to any part of the country.

Also, the Group has efficient clearing and forwarding team that has built a robust relationship with Nigeria Customs, which would be on ground to support the clearing needs of consignees.

On the other hand, the Group has empty container depot located just about 200 meters to the terminal to sort the challenge of returning empty containers for consignees. With this, the terminal in essence has a capacity to function as a one-stop shop for all logistic needs.

Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), who also spoke at the event, described the facility as a turning point in Nigeria’s quest to encourage private participation in the provision of facilities for economic growth and development.

Represented by Onari Brown, executive director, Marine and Operations, Usman said the initiative by SIFAX Group was a clear manifestation of the company’s identification with the policy trust of government by creating a port expansion facility through the conception and realisation of this project.

This facility, according to her, will have direct socio-economic benefits including port decongestion, quick turnaround of vessels, easy cargo clearance and reduction of traffic on port approaches, employment generation for host communities, human capital development, increased GDP and increase revenue to government.

She further disclosed that the terminal was equipped with fixed import/export laden and empty containers equipment aimed at absorbing pressure from the main ports and increasing overall terminal holding capacity of the ports in Apapa.

“With the sustained creation of the right environment for business to thrive by government as exemplified by the port concession programme of the NPA, there is great hope for growth and development for the overall sectors of the economy,” she said.

On his part, Mohammed Abba Kura, Customs Area Controller, Apapa Command, who noted that the new terminal makes its three bounded terminals belonging to SIFAX Group that are located under Apapa Command, said Customs is always ready to support genuine investors in facilitating international trade.

“Once business starts fully, the terminal will have much on their hand to handle because containers can be brought to the terminal using barges and cleared cargoes can as well be evacuated using barges or trucks due to ease of access along the coastline,” Kura said.

Vicky Haastrup, executive vice chairman, ENL Consortium lauded SIFAX Group for always being at the forefront of innovations in the country’s maritime sector.

Haastrup, who doubles as the chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), described SIFAX investment as truly Nigerian, adding that Nigerians are stepping up in the maritime sector, which was formerly dominated by foreigners. “Nigerians are now taking their rightful place in the maritime sector and we see many more to come. This shows that the NPA under Hadiza Bala Usman is truly supporting indigenous terminal operators to grow,” she said.

SIFAX Container Terminal at Ijora Causeway is strategically located within the precincts of the Lagos ports to provide a viable option to all importers, exporters and shippers, who had suffered untold hardship over the years from Apapa debilitating traffic.

The new terminal will give consignees and agents the opportunity of faster and easier clearance of consignments as well as access to a better road network devoid of crippling traffic congestion that makes accessing and exiting the Lagos ports a painful experience for truckers and other port users.

Apart from the cargo handling equipment, the terminal also boasts of the right environment and ambience for clients to conduct their businesses. They include a well-equipped clinic; business centre where services such as document photocopying, typesetting and internet services are offered; and a well-furnished agent house to give customers the deserved comfort. It was also understood that in the nearest future, the Group has plans to upgrade the terminal to a jetty, where vessels can berth as it has begun works with relevant regulatory agencies to achieve this feat.

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