Shipping operators in the Nigerian maritime sector have decried the worsening Apapa gridlock, stressing that the Presidential Task Team put in place to restore normalcy in Apapa has failed.
Speaking to maritime journalists under the aegis of the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN) Thursday in Lagos, President of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Mallam Aminu Umar, said the cost of moving a container from Apapa to other part of the country has gone beyond what importers could afford, and called on the federal government to urgently address the Apapa gridlock.
According to him, with all the revenue generated in Apapa, coupled with the massive employment the port offers the country, he is shocked that for the past two weeks, the seaport has been under lockdown as motorists now spends close to four hours connecting the port and Ijora.
He said: “I cannot tell you how many companies have had to close down because of the Apapa gridlock issue. Many have gone under because accessibility to their business for customers became an issue. These days, movement in and out of Apapa is getting unpredictable. All what has been achieved in the last few months by the presidential committee on Apapa gridlock, has vanished all of a sudden in the last two weeks.
“The task force was created to ensure there is no traffic gridlock in Apapa, but in the last two weeks, many of us have gone spiritual because the gridlock has come back worse than what it used to be. If for the past two weeks, the Apapa traffic chaos has returned, then to we, the operators, the task force has failed. It is either the task force is not doing its job or something bigger than the task force has happened, and made them unable to do their job.
“Our major sadness is that Apapa port is Nigeria’s premier port. About 79 per cent of vessels that visit Nigeria come here to discharge their cargoes. If the vessels are not discharging at Apapa port, they are at Tin-Can port, also in Apapa, discharging. Yet, there is no access road.
“The gridlock here in Apapa is adding to the cost of every goods and services available around here. If I tell you the cost of discharging a cargo now, you will be shocked. The Apapa gridlock is part of the reason why our export drive in this country is not there. It is the same vessel that brings in cargoes as imports that will carry export cargoes out of this country. If the access road is not there, how will the cargoes come in or even go out?
“We, the shipowners think the situation has gone beyond the Presidential Task Force now. It is time every stakeholder here in Apapa gets up and ensures the roads are cleared. If you look at the developed world, the port roads are always the best roads to play. Who knows the danger that lies on that Ijora bridge because the trucks have been there for two weeks now, turning the place into a parking lot. The bridge could collapse.”