APM Terminals: Setting Standards for Port Digitalization in Nigeria

APM Terminals Apapa is, without a doubt, the bellwether of port operation in Nigeria, setting the pace for port digitization in the country, writes Eromosele Abiodun.

Since its inception at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa in 2006, Nigeria’s largest container terminal, APM Terminals Apapa has continually remained in the forefront of port modernization and digitization.

Starting off with the overhaul of terminal equipment and port infrastructure, the terminal expanded its yard capacity, modernized its Information Technology hardware and software systems and skilled up its workforce.

Currently, APM Terminals Apapa holds 30 rubber tyred gantry cranes (RTGs) in operation. It also has 13 Mobile Harbour Cranes (MHCs), in addition to several Reach Stackers, forklifts, empty handlers and specialized terminal trucks, making it the best-equipped port terminal in Nigeria.

Over the past few years, APM Terminals Apapa has been on a remarkable transformation journey, with a strong ambition to become a world-class terminal operator, enabling access to the jobs, products, foods, medicine and other essential items for Nigerians.

In March 2022, APM Terminals Apapa commissioned its new digitalized administrative building in line with its commitment of introducing new innovations to help both shipping lines and landside customers achieve improved supply chain efficiency and flexibility in a cost-effective manner. The building is the first of its kind; equipped with a digitized Operations Command Centre that has significantly improved container handling operations and processing, and a state-of-the-art crane simulator, the first of its kind in the entire West African region, to train crane operators on the usage of sophisticated terminal equipment such as the MHCs and RTGs that are in use at the terminal.

The significance of having the first digitalized port building in Nigeria was underscored by the high-level personalities and stakeholders that graced the grand commissioning ceremony. The roll call of dignitaries at the event included the representatives of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigeria Police Force, major shipping lines and landside customers.

The event was also attended by Keith Svendsen, who is now the CEO of APM Terminals. The new building, according to Svendsen, would set a new standard for port operation in Nigeria.

“What is more important is to make sure that we are ready for the future. A port is one of the infrastructures that take years to plan and build. This is why we are working to make it better and get ready for the future,” Svendsen said.

Investment in Technology

He said the technology embedded in the new building would improve container handling operations and processing in the terminal particularly in enabling electronic invoicing, electronic receipt and online payment processes that allow customers fast-track their documentation.

Also speaking, then Country Managing Director of APM Terminals Nigeria, Klaus Laursen, said, “The aim is to make APM Terminals Apapa a better trade and logistics zone. We just have to be better and improve everyday by investing in our people and infrastructure in order to have a smarter and digitalized business that serves the need of our customers and the country at large.”

Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, commended APM Terminals for raising the standards of port operation in the country, and for adding immense value to the port over the past 16 years.

Bello-Koko, who was represented by NPA’s Assistant General Manager, Operations, Ayo Durowaiye, said, “It is gratifying to note that APM Terminals is also paying attention to exports particularly now that the Federal Government is focused on growing the non-oil and agro business sectors.”

The Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Comptroller-General Modupe Aremu, represented by Comptroller Queen Ogbudu, also commended APM Terminals Apapa for setting the pace in terminal operations in Nigeria.

“The Nigeria Customs Service is proud of you APM Terminals Apapa, you are doing a good job, and no doubt about it – always a pacesetter and we appreciate you,” Comptroller Ogbudu said.

new digital initiatives

Shortly after the commissioning of the smart building, APM Terminals Apapa rolled out two new digital initiatives for the benefit of its customers. The new initiatives were geared towards its commitment of continuous service improvement. The first digital initiative was the #Dynamic #TDO, which brought about an impressive and faster process of generating Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) with multiple containers on the same Bill of Lading while the second was #Dynamic #Delivery, which enabled faster loading of customers’ containers in the yard.

The Planning Manager of APM Terminals Apapa, Riyaz Melekolangath, said the new initiatives would lead to reduction in waiting time during TDO generation for Bill of Lading with multiple containers; reduction of truck waiting time; reduction of truck inefficiency; and improved TDO security.

Some customers of the terminal recognized the continuous efforts in delivering top-notch services at the port.

Supply Chain Director of Promasidor, Idowu Osoneye, said, “APM Terminals Apapa provides great value to Promasidor and the entire value chain. The terminal has automated its invoicing process, payment process, and receipting process. At any point in time, any time of the day, payment can be done, and all other processes can equally be concluded without any delay. I also want to talk about the 24-hour service. You can be very sure that at any point in time, your goods can exit the port and have them delivered without any issue at all. I am satisfied with the truck turnaround time, and with the introduction and schedule of barge operations.”

Also speaking, Chief Operating Officer of Blue Anchor, Emeka Dimude, said, “APM Terminals is doing a good job in Apapa. Apart from the fact that they are bringing in a world-class facility to operate in Apapa, they are also trying as much as possible to make their operation humane. In 2021 when things were so bad as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, we had many consignments that piled up for several reasons. The terminal was kind enough to reach out to me and enquired about my many consignments. I explained my situation and they were so kind to ask me to apply for a waiver so that I could be given a soft landing. They did that and it was a big cushion for us.”

Environmentally sustainable Operations

Besides its focus on port digitization, the terminal has, in recent years, directed more efforts into environmentally sustainable and friendly operations. Last year, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FREEE Recycle Limited to recycle its used tyres, eliminated the use of single-use plastic bottled water in order to reduce its plastic waste footprint and commenced recycling PVC fibres to produce coveralls.

“We are reducing environmental footprint in Nigeria, and I am super excited we have FREEE Recycle Limited to partner with. We are recycling our used tyres into materials that can be used in other parts of the supply chain. It is important to partner with companies that have different expertise to complement our efforts to ensure that together, we reduce the environmental footprint in our businesses,” Terminal Manager, APM Terminals Apapa, Steen Knudsen said.

APM Terminals Apapa has received several commendations and awards not just for its efficiency but also for its sterling safety records. Last year, the terminal set a new safety record at the port, as it logged 500 days without Lost Time Injury (LTI). No Lost Time Injury (LTI), which is a key indicator of the effectiveness of an organization’s safety program, means no injury was sustained on the job by an employee or contractor that resulted in the person being absent from work. 

For its outstanding Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) records, the terminal won the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Platinum Merit Award in December 2022.

Government Relations Manager at APM Terminals Apapa, Kayode Olufemi Daniel, who received the award on behalf of the company, said, “We are so excited that we have received the 2022 Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos Ports Complex HSE Committee Merit Award. This great honour is a demonstration of our continued commitment to improving health, safety and environment, not just within the terminal but also within the port facility.”

The terminal places great value on the training and development of its employees. In 2022, 844 employees underwent trainings in their functional areas, and in leadership and management. To instill a culture of efficiency and productivity, the terminal runs a LEAN Academy with 603 employees undergoing LEAN training from Levels 1 to 4 in 2022.

In addition to meeting international security requirements outlined by the International Ships and Ports Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) and APM Terminals global safety requirements, the terminal operates a truck safety program, which ensures that designated, physically protected areas are provided for drivers conducting operational activities outside of their truck cabs, as well as safety instructions specific to each facility’s layout and traffic flow.

New lighting system

Apapa Terminals Apapa also upgraded its yard lighting system in 2022, by installing a new LED lighting solution. With this, the terminal succeeded in attaining the global lighting standard, thus taking it to the highest level of safety attainable.

APM Terminals Apapa strongly supports Nigeria’s non-oil export drive. It is the only container terminal in Nigeria offering inter-modal transportation, with rail connectivity to the north and hinterland, barge and truck services. 

As a responsible corporate organization, APM Terminals Apapa takes its corporate social responsibilities seriously by positively touching lives and giving back to its host community. In June 2022, it sponsored the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking to address drug challenges in the country. Employees at the terminal also participated in activities organized by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to mark the day.

APM Terminals Apapa is, without a doubt, the bellwether of port operation in Nigeria, setting the pace for port digitization in the country.

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