• Over N5 trillion cargoes waiting for evacuation
• Vessels queue to berth in Apapa, TinCan
No fewer than two million containers laden with various cargoes worth over N5 trillion are currently stranded at the Lagos port complex, due to the inability of importers to evacuate them.
The Guardian’s investigations showed that many of the cargoes are now incurring demurrage after enjoying three rent-free days from the day of discharge. The containers continue to accumulate due to the blockade of ports’ access roads for repairs.
This situation, according to experts, portends grave danger for the Nigerian economy, as it will trigger inflation and further discourage importers from choosing Nigeria as the port of destination. The situation may linger for the next one year that has been earmarked for the repairs of the 20Km Apapa Wharf road.
It was also discovered that the situation has affected the berthing of ships at Tin Can and Apapa ports as no fewer than 20 vessels were seen queuing up to berth as a result of the slow discharge of containers which are needed to be carefully stacked at the terminals.
The shutting of the ports’ access roads precipitated a pandemonium last week after a truck driver was shot and killed by a policeman for parking in front of a bank on Creek road, Apapa.
It is so bad that trucks can no longer go in and out of the various terminals inside the port, without huge efforts at traffic control.
A clearing agent, Alade Omolaja said t “this is the first time in 11 years that congestion is happening and vessel queue is forming at the ports.”
The situation, according to him, has invalidated Executive Order on port decongestion and government’s initiative on Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association Of Nigeria (Stoan), Princess Vicky Haastrup, lamented:.
“While we commend the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other arms of government for taking necessary steps to repair the badly damaged roads leading into and out of the ports, it is important at this stage to institute measures to ensure a free flow of traffic.
“At present, we have a lockdown in the system with trucks, which should come into the ports to evacuate cargoes, not being able to access the ports because they are trapped on the road. This is dangerous for port business and for the economy. And we are beginning to see the consequences of this as vessels are beginning to queue on our waters again. This is something that has not happened in more than 11 years of port concession.
“Government should, as a matter of urgency, deploy traffic and security personnel in a large number to Apapa to ensure a free flow of traffic. The traffic officials should work in shifts so that they can have 24 hours a day presence on the road.
“Once they’re on the road and necessary checks and balances are created to ensure that they do their work in an appropriate manner, there will be a free flow of traffic and full blown congestion will be averted,” she said.
“Without a free flow of traffic, congestion is inevitable with dire consequences for the Nigerian economy,” she added.
An operator, APM Terminals Apapa said: “In the last 24 hours, we have gated out about 1,000 trucks, this is the reason for the movement of the trucks on the queue waiting to enter the port. Like we always say, if we do not gate out trucks, it is almost impossible to gate in new trucks.”
In a letter to its customers, copy of which was obtained by The Guardian, the company said its employees, service providers, contractors and customers have to go through the harrowing traffic experience everyday, like every other person.
“We are aware APM Terminals is being accused as the cause of the traffic gridlock in the Apapa area and we would like to set the record straight.
“APM Terminals Apapa is as much a victim of the traffic gridlock as everyone else. Our employees, service providers, contractors and customers have to go through the harrowing traffic experience everyday.
“These employees are the ones that operate the equipment that service the trucks and would not by any means delay or stop servicing trucks unnecessarily as it would equate to ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’.
“We have always updated our stakeholders on the traffic situation in the Apapa area and it amazes us that APM Terminals is tagged as the cause of the situation. We will not be deterred from doing what is right, and would always communicate the true position of things to you our esteemed customers,” it stated.
Other operators said this could lead to higher inflation and shipping companies might slam congestion surcharge on Nigerian ports.
Congestion surcharge slammed on the ports by multinational shipping companies before port concession amounted to about $100million yearly.