By Godfrey BIVBERE

APM Terminals, one of the private terminal operators at Apapa Port, has decried the incidence of inadequate tug boats for pilotage functions at the ports in Lagos, as well as the presence of multiple Customs check points after consignments have been cleared for exit.

Speaking for APM Terminals, the Chief Commercial Officer, Neil Fletcher, while making a presentation to the visiting Minister for National Planning, Dr Shamshudeen Usman, said that inadequate tug boats makes it difficult for vessels to be brought to the berth when there are lots of ship calls.

The Minister, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Monitoring and Implementation committee of the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, had led members of the committee on a tour of Apapa Port to assess the concession exercise.

According to Fletcher, “The number of tug boats available for traffic management,” are not enough. “Sometimes when berthing, we have some delays because tug boats are not available. There are no tug boats within the harbour and we can’t get ships in as quickly as we like because of tug boats.”

On the issue of multiple check points, the APM Terminal boss said, “On the way out, multiple checkpoints on containers leaving the terminal” after they have been duly cleared is a problem.”

Similarly, Fletcher also complained about the high volume of containers which the Customs send for physical examination, stressing that it poses a great challenge to its operations.

In his words, “The percentage of Customs request for examination is very huge in number in Nigeria and that is one reason why we have the challenge with physical examination and the containers we scan. It’s the amount of request we have.”

The Minister had earlier said that though there are still some challenges, the nation’s ports have improved greatly in terms of cargo throughput and infrastructures after the concession exercise.

He commended port concessionaires on their positive impact on the cost of doing business in Nigeria.

According to him, “The efficiency at the ports is in multiples of what it was prior to the concession. There is no waiting time for ships as they come into Apapa; every one docks immediately and begins the discharge.”

The minister compared port operations during the infamous “cement armada” saga of the 1970’s, and the era of $850 congestion surcharge on containers to what obtains now.

“I remember when I was working in Lagos, as you are driving on the Marina… You used to have a large flotilla of ships waiting to berth. Now it looks as if there is not enough business in the ports but it is really because of the work that all these companies are doing.

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