Owing to the upward growth of cargo throughput at seaports, there is need for Nigeria to build more terminals to handle the growing capacity, according to a 2012 trade report released by Maersk Nigeria Limited.
“It is expected that the terminal capacity in Lagos ports will be fully utilised within the coming years. Therefore, it is also essential that steps are taken to find new terminal capacity in order to keep up with Nigeria’s economic growth,” the report said.
A breakdown of five years cargo throughput as released by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) shows that 46,150,518 metric tonnes of cargo were imported into the country in 2006. This grew to 54,641,048 metric tonnes in 2007, 65,192,919 in 2008, 66,908,322 in 2009, 74,910,284 in 2010, and 82,763,384 metric tonnes in 2011.
The statistics further show that in 2006, about 3,689 vessels called Nigerian ports. This grew to 4,050 in 2007, 4,477 in 2008, 4,620 in 2009, 4,962 in 2010, and 5,327 in 2011.
Commenting on the trade report, Jan Thorhauge, managing director, Maersk Nigeria Limited, said in spite of the fact that most of the terminals in Nigeria invested in 2012 in terms of infrastructure, container handling equipment and terminal management software, there was still need for more terminal development to meet the growing volume.
He said, for example, “APM Terminals Apapa had in early 2013 initiated the final phase of its expansion plans while Tin-Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) and Ports and Cargo Handling Services are operating almost entirely with RTG’s (rubber tired gantry cranes) which has dramatically increased the yard capacity.”
This, according to him, has reduced the average dwell-time days (the time spent between a container being discharged and leaving the terminal) at Nigerian ports by 40 percent.
“The East Nigerian market outperformed West Nigeria in terms of growth in percentage terms. While the first half of 2012 saw the import market remain above the 2011 level, this changed during the second half of the year where volumes dropped and for the last five months of the year were consistently below the same period in 2011,” Thorhauge said.
The Maersk Nigeria boss also identified poor road infrastructure outside the terminals and lack of rail services to move laden containers from the ports to the hinterlands as issues of major concern to the nation’s economic growth.
“From Maersk Line perspective, we will continue to offer a combination of direct services from the Far East, as well as our relay products from the Western Mediterranean, and today Maersk Line has seven weekly calls in the largest Nigerian ports. The 4,500 TEUs (20-foot equivalent) WAFMAX vessels we deployed in 2011/2012 remain the by far largest container vessels calling Nigeria. The WAFMAX vessels initially called the port of Apapa, but in 2013 it will be deployed to other ports in Nigeria.
“Our expectations for the 2013 import market are conservatively optimistic, and we expect the market to grow 6-8 percent. The export market is subject to harvest conditions and global market prices, but we foresee an increase of 8-10 percent in 2013,” he said, noting, however, that forecasting in Nigeria remains a challenge given the fact that market development always depends heavily on unpredictable macro-economic factors as well as stable oil prices and oil production, security issues in Northern Nigeria, stability in Eastern Nigeria, rate of exchange fluctuations for the naira, among others.