By Eromosele Abiodun
APM Terminals Apapa and Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) have resumed the evacuation of containers by rail from the Lagos Port Complex Apapa as part of efforts to decongest the roads.
APM Terminals originally restored the rail service in 2013 running three times per week to Kano and Kaduna.
Speaking in Lagos, the General Manager, External Affairs of APM Terminals Apapa, Daniel Odibe, said the terminal and the NRC have developed a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which would bridge communication gap and ultimately lead to more efficient cargo evacuation by rail.
The new SOP, he stated, was facilitated by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) adding that, “We wish to thank the Nigerian Shippers Council for facilitating this SOP directed at improving service delivery to shippers and consignees. This is an important milestone for the port. It is something we have always asked for. We want to have an SOP for receiving trains into the terminal and servicing them. It definitely helps planning when you have adequate information ahead of time.”
He said with the closure of a section of the Apapa Bridge for repair works, the resumption of cargo evacuation by rail will help in reducing backlog of cargoes at the port.
“Our intention when we constructed the rail line in 2013 and connected it to the national line was to provide alternate mode of evacuation of cargoes to customers. So coming together to improve on the number of containers that we evacuate by rail line is coming at the best time with the bridge closure. It will take away some trucks from the road, ”he said.
On his part, Lagos District Manager of NRC, Jerry Oche, said: “A train is made up of 19 wagons and each of the wagons can take one 40feet or two 20-feet containers. So, if we are doing 40feet, that is 19 trucks off the road and if it is 20-feet, that is 38 trucks off the road per trip. We are starting with two trips per day and we hope to increase it in no distant time.”
Also speaking, Director, Regulatory Services of NSC, Ifeoma Ezedinma, said: “This will help decongest our road because we now have multimodal transport – access to road, waterways and the train.”
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, has said that APM Terminals Apapa has deployed equipment and cranes necessary for fast evacuation of cargo at Nigeria’s premiere port, the Lagos Port Complex Apapa.
Bala-Usman, who spoke on a TV programme monitored in Lagos, also decried the manual inspection of cargoes by the Nigeria Customs Service, which she says does not promote port efficiency.
She said there is need for prompt deployment of scanners and automation of the cargo clearing process to reduce the burden of consignees.
She said: “We will continue to engage with our stakeholders but we recognise that we must enhance efficiency and ensure consignees get their cargo in a timely manner. Some of the things we are doing is pushing to ensure that vessels come in and cargoes evacuated in good time.
“We are working assiduously with the terminal operators and the Nigeria Customs Service to fast track the process of evacuating cargo from the vessel and importantly the inspection of cargo. This is something that is of great priority to the ports authority, government and more so for Customs.
“We need to deploy scanners at our ports so that our cargoes can be inspected using scanners. Right now, as a lot of consignees are aware, our cargoes are inspected physically. You can imagine how difficult and challenging that would be having cargoes that come into the country examined physically. We need to make sure that we put in place automation mechanism to improve port efficiency.