The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman has denied insinuations that high cargo throughput is responsible for the endemic traffic gridlock on the access roads to the Apapa ports in Lagos.
Bala-Usman, who spoke to journalists in Lagos recently, stressed the need to deploy intermodal transportation as solution to the Apapa traffic crisis.
She explained that aside from the dilapidated and parlous state of the roads, the country has also not improved infrastructure in the port area in the past ten years.
With the current state of the roads, she said priority must be given to every process that would lead to an improvement in access roads into the ports.
According to her, “At the peak of cargo reception in 2014 Cargo throughput was put at 84,951,927 MT, we did not have the type of congestion that we had in 2017 when we only did 71, 776, 545MT. This is to show you that the volume of cargo is not the reason why we have this situation.
“There is also the very important need of deploying intermodal means of transportation around the ports. There is no way you can move 90 per cent of cargo coming into the country by road and expect the required level of efficiency.
“This is because more than the attendant traffic congestion, you will also see that the roads cannot be durable because of the heavy tonnage of the trucks.
“The only sustainable way for effective cargo evacuation is therefore the use of roads, rails and water to move cargo into the hinterland, and we are doing our best to facilitate the efforts of companies who are interested in moving cargo through barges.
“One of these is Connect Rail, which operates between Tin Can and Ikorodu. We are also working with the Nigerian Railway Corporation to see more effective use of rail in the movement of cargo with hope that the concessioning of railways which the Ministry of Transport is working on will bring a more permanent solution,” Bala Usman said.
In the interim, however, she noted that shipping companies must comply with the utlilisation of holding bays even as the authority and the Lagos State government are currently working towards ensuring that a sufficient number of trailer parks are licensed as a way of taking articulated vehicles off the roads.
She added that the NPA, which recently sanctioned four shipping companies, would continue to monitor the situation and apply the necessary sanctions needed to make all companies comply.
She explained that the federal government was working assiduously towards ensuring that traffic increases in the eastern ports comprising Warri, Onne, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
While stating that the nature of the maritime industry was to allow cargo owners determine the port of call, she said that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently gave approval for the contract to dredge the Warri/Escravos Channel which would increase the draught of Warri, while proposals for the dredging of Calabar was also being discussed.
“We have been speaking with shipping companies to deploy flat bottom vessels that require lower draught levels pending the completion of the dredging efforts.
“Two of such vessels called at Calabar last year and it was in the news two weeks ago that the Calabar ports generated about N3 billion in the first three months of this year. So, we are determined to get all our ports working, “she said.
She explained that the destination of a lot of the cargo that come into the Lagos ports are within the Lagos/Ogun State industrial cluster, which is the reason we just have to prepare all our ports to function at utmost capacity.