· Freight forwarders loses N1bn to gridlock
· Damaged fenders hinder vessels
Lagos — Despite the insinuations of improvements in the Apapa traffic situation, Nigerian maritime industry stakeholders, at a recent meeting in Lagos with the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, have said that the traffic gridlock in and around the port access roads has remained the major hindrance to port operation and businesses.
This comes at the backdrop of a claim by the freight forwarders operating in the Lagos ports that they lose about N1billion to the gridlock on a yearly basis.
Speaking at the meeting, Chief Osita Chukwu, of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, SNFF, group said that importers and freight forwarders pay demurrages and unnecessary charges occasioned by the traffic situation in Apapa.
Although, Chukwu was not detailed in the claim, he however said that if a lasting solution is not put in place to check the traffic gridlock, it will continue to make operators lose huge money.
He also said that sometime, some of the terminal operators shut down their operation causing delays which lead to further costs to importers and freight forwarders.
He explained that the traffic gridlock is also beginning to discourage foreign investors in the maritime industry adding that businesses are closing and moving out of the port area.
According to Mr. Mark Wash, Executive Director, ENL Consortium, the traffic gridlock is still a problem as the situation has defied the call up system introduced to manage it.
Wash said that their customers have also complained about the Lilypond Truck Park where trucks go and spend between four to five days before they are called.
Besides the traffic situation, stakeholders also mentioned prolonged waiting time for vessels and inadequate equipment at the terminal operators’ yard which further delays processes in cargo clearance by government agencies and regulators, as other key hindrances to smooth port operations.
Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, collaborated Chukwu’s statement adding that the N1billion loss is a conservative estimation of the monetary loss to the Apapa traffic.
Farinto also said that besides the monetary losses, over 100 lives have been lost to the traffic in addition to the numerous accidents that have damaged trucks and caused disabilities to the lives of port users.
“Can the lives lost to the traffic situation be quantified?” he queried.
The seasoned freight forwarder also disclosed that agents, importers and other port users have suffered all kinds of health complications due the pollution and hazards in the ports adding that about 40 percent of agents now have high blood pressure.
“Besides the monetary losses, the lives lost and the man hour losses, there are loses that cannot be quantified as they go beyond monetary value”, he stated.
Similarly, Mr. Vincent Ohizu of CMA CGM, a French shipping giant operating in Apapa, hinted at the meeting that the port waterfronts are not well patrolled as vessels and berths were still being attacked.
Ohizu disclosed that there are attacks on vessels in the port almost every month and called on the NPA to increase the patrol of the port waterfront on a more regular basis.
He also disclosed that Ship Captains have refused to berth their vessels in some allocated berthing space because of damaged fenders.
He said that most vessels will take their time to wait for berths that have fairly good fenders to bring their vessels alongside adding that if these fenders are not fixed as soon as possible, it could lead to the collapse of the quayside.
Ohizu stated: “It is a risk for vessel masters to berth without functional fenders. Out of fender position can also cause pollution, it can also cause collapse of the quay wall and it does not speak well for the port industry.”
Reacting to some of the issues raised by the stakeholders, NPA’s Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Mr. Sekonte Davis, agreed to the issue of damaged fenders adding that management was looking for fenders from other ports for the Lagos ports.
He also disclosed that the procurement process for the purchase of new fenders was at an advance stage adding that the issue of damaged fenders will soon be a thing of the past.
His words: “The procurement of fenders is being processed, but we are gathering fenders from other ports so as to reduce the vessel turn around and cargo dwell time.”
On terminal operators stopping operations, Sekonte warned terminal operators to desist from such action adding that no terminal operator is allowed to shut down operations during the day because the ports do not operate on 24-hour basis.
He explained that the authority has been able to improve the power supply situation at the terminals adding that with the ongoing collaboration with terminal operators, there has also been improved security at terminals.
Meanwhile, the NPA management is considering moving overtime cargoes from the Apapa terminals to Ikorodu lighter terminal with a view to freeing up spaces at the terminals.
Sekonte also said that the agency may incur some costs in the course of moving these containers to Ikorodu.
He disclosed that there are about 1,259 containers of overtime cargoes in A. P M Terminal alone but was silent on the figures in other terminals.