Contrary to widely held notion, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has stated that the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa and the Tin Can Island Port Complex, both in Lagos, are not congested.
SOAN in a statement said both ports are operating at less than 70 per cent capacity stressing that the major challenges facing the ports are the road access, which have become severely dilapidated.
STOAN Spokesman, Bolaji Akinola, who issued the statement said: “It is important to correct the understanding of the public about the ports. The hinterland infrastructure leading to the ports in Lagos, namely the roads, are at breaking points. The ports are not congested and are not at breaking points.
“Most of the terminals in the two ports are operating below capacity. The busiest terminals are operating at less than 70 per cent at the yard and 60 per cent at berth. So there is no port congestion anywhere as of today.”
Akinola said the ports in Lagos have capacity to handle beyond the volume of cargo they are handling at the moment if government pays attention to the issue of dilapidated port access roads as well as put an end to the manual handling of cargo clearing processes deployed by the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said port operation is not about the size of the port only, but about the efficiency of the connecting facilities around the port.
“The major problem we have at hand is that successive governments allowed the port access roads to degenerate so bad. The two main entry routes into the Lagos ports are the Ijora-Wharf Road and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, which is the major road to the ports with six lanes, has packed up several years ago. Every petroleum tanker, port truck and trucks belonging to the many manufacturing concerns in Apapa now use the narrow Ijora-Wharf Road, which is not even in a perfect state also. This resulted to the inevitable chaos we see on the roads. If these roads are repaired as they should be, the chaos will disappear, ”Akinola said.
The STOAN spokesman also said ports in other parts of the country were not immune to the challenges of bad road.
He said the Onitsha River Port, recently constructed by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), was not functional because of bad roads.
“Also, if you visit the ports in Rivers State – Onne and Port Harcourt Ports – and the ones in Delta State, it is the same story of dilapidated roads. The roads are bad and trucks spend several hours trying to get in and out of the ports, ”the STOAN spokesman added.
He called on the federal government to embark on “urgent comprehensive repairs” of the roads leading to all the ports in the country, especially the Lagos ports. He also tasked the government on the provision of functional truck parks in Apapa to stop trucks from parking on the roads and impeding the flow of traffic.
“We have spoken in the past also about the need to develop alternative modes of haulage in the country. The over-reliance on road haulage is not healthy or sustainable for the country. The Federal Government will need to get the rails working so that cargoes can be moved around the country by rail. NIWA should also focus its energy on enhancing waterways transportation, as some cargoes can also be moved to their final destinations by the waterways, ”Akinola added.
Ahmed: Seatime Berth Not Easy to Come By
The Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Gambo Ahmed, has said the delay in the training of cadets was because sea time berths were not easy to come by.
Ahmed, made the disclosure while speaking to journalists at the inauguration of the C4i Integrated Surveillance Centre, in Lagos.
While speaking on the challenge of sea time, Ahmed lamented that unavailability of berths was the reason for seeming delay.
He said: “Internationally, sea time berths are not easy to come by. So, it is not a matter of making payments it’s a matter of getting the space. The training is done on vessels that are moving around and the ships that are available do not belong to Nigeria. They do not belong to NIMASA
“Initially we tried to get the ship owners. That has not come easy because all they do is they give you space for one or two persons on a ship because they have their own others to carry on. And every country you go to, they have the same problem. We have never been at it. We have gone around to see how we can get space.”
“Even this signing of agreement is not of recent. Last year we had one with Arab Academy in Egypt. We had with a university in United Kingdom (UK). Arab Academy took 150 people for sea time. They have finished now and are going for their certificate of competency exam.
“What we are looking at now is to get an additional 100 to Arab Academy and another 100 to Maritime Academy in Ukraine. We are right now negotiating with another institution in Turkey and India and even a Nigerian training institute that is collaborating with other people to create space but the space can take only 40 people.
“The space is the issue. I sympathise with them. If somebody has finished his training and is waiting for sea time for one or two years, naturally, frustration would set in,” he said.
While responding to the issue on what NIMASA was doing to better the position of MAN Oron cadets, Ahmed said: “Cadets from MAN Oron is not the responsibility of NIMASA. What we do whenever we see any opportunity in cabotage trade is that we impose on them to take some cadets on. And they have been taking the MAN Oron cadets. Our own Seafarers Development Programme is focused on ocean going vessels and the MAN Oron will focus on cabotage vessels and we have sent 100.”