One of the concessionaires in the nation’s seaports, APM Terminals Apapa Limited, has predicted low container volume into Nigeria in the first quarter of this year.
While expressing optimism in the growth of the economy, APM Terminals Apapa Ltd Managing Director, Mr. Dallas Hampton, said he is not expecting any significant increase in the volume of containers coming into the country in the first quarter of 2013.
Hampton was quoted in a statement by the Media Adviser of the firm, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, saying that Nigeria is a big economy and there is great potential for growth, but the low volume experienced since the second half of 2012 will continue into the first quarter of the year.
Apart from low volume of container import, the biggest challenge for container terminal operators at present, according to Hampton, is over-capacity and under-utilisation.
Hampton also disclosed that volumes are not expected to pick up before the second quarter of the year. He said container volumes in Lagos recorded a marginal increase of about three per cent in 2012 as against an increase of 25 per cent recorded in 2011.
“We projected 700,000 TEUs in 2012 but we handled only 650,000 TEUs only a slight increase above the 2011 figure of 628,000 TEUs”, he disclosed.
He said the terminal now runs more efficiently than ever before with no significant waiting time for vessels to berth.
“We have not had any significant waiting time for vessels for the last 9 months and vessels are able to berth at the terminal shortly after arrival at the port. We are also seeing a reduction in imported container dwell time due to a number of reasons, not least of which are the company's improved systems for positioning of containers for scanning.
“Though, the sheer quantity of containers requested by Nigerian Customs Service for physical inspection remains a challenge. APM Terminals has recently introduced a new enhancement for customers who are able to accurately nominate their containers for x-ray scanning prior to Customs confirmation.
“We have always said that if we can have accurate information about which containers need x-ray scanning we can have them scanned much earlier and allow customers to take delivery of their goods several days sooner, rather than the usual system of waiting for Customs to review and nomination. We are also planning to introduce a new multi level container inspection facility late this year that will be operated by yard cranes in order to increase capacity for physical inspections”, Hampton said.
According to him, the lower volumes and reduced container dwell time have eliminated the need to transfer containers to off dock facilities.
A subsidiary of Danish port operations giant, AP Moller-Maersk Group, Apapa Quay, operated by the firm remains the busiest container terminal in the West Africa sub-region.
With an investment of $200 million in new equipment and upgrades at Apapa since 2006, the firm has eliminated the vessel waiting times of up to 40 days common in 2006 as yard expansions and other improvements have been implemented, raising productivity from 6 moves per hour to the current average of 24 moves per hour. Operational standards at the terminal, according to experts, have reached parity with European facility operations.
The firm had announced plans for a further $130 million expenditure over the next three years, including the purchase of eight new mobile harbour cranes and 13 rubber-tyre gantry (RTGs) cranes, which will increase annual throughput capacity to one million TEUs.
The terminal is the largest mobile crane-operated facility in West Africa with one of the only facilities in the region able to accommodate the new 4,500 TEU capacity West Africa-Max (WAFMAX) vessels now entering into West African service.
APM Terminals and its consortium partners last year announced plans to develop a new Greenfield mega-port project and Free Trade Zone at Badagry in Nigeria’s Lagos State, 55 km (34 miles) West of Apapa and the Port of Lagos on the Republic of Benin-Lagos Expressway.
At full build-out, the deep-water full-service port will be one of the largest in Africa with 7 km of quay and 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of dedicated yard, and will include state-of the art facilities for container, bulk, liquid bulk, RORO and general cargo as well as oil and gas operations support and a barge terminal.
Plans for the adjoining Badagry Free Trade Zone will include a power plant, oil refinery, industrial park and warehousing and inland container depot. The first phase of the project is scheduled to open in 2016.