By Godwin Oritse and Godfrey Bivbere

…Only 11 operate holding bays
…Capacity only 11, 130 containers

The holding bay strategy of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to stem the tide of container laden trucks congesting Apapa axis and the surrounding territories in Lagos is threatened  by  shipping firms appear to be foot-dragging in compliance.

The firms have  been overwhelmed by huge container traffic swamping the minimal holding bay facilities they have been able to create so far.

Tincan holding bay

Investigations by Vanguard Maritime Report show that only 11 shipping companies have so far established holding bays. The firms, according to NPA document sighted by Vanguard Maritime Report, includes PIL, CMA CGM, GAC, Blue Funnel and Messina.

Others are MOL, Hull Blyth, Cosco, Lansal, MSC and Maerskline.

It is not clear how many shipping firms that are yet to create holding bays but going by the records of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, over 85 shipping firms may be defaulting as NIMASA’s record shows about 96 registered shipping firms, though an industry source say many of them have not be doing significant level of business that could contribute to the huge container traffic.

The NPA document also indicated that the capacity of the facilities created by the 11 shipping firms could take only 11, 130 containers as against estimated daily inflow of over 50,000 containers designated for Apapa and Tin-can ports.

Industry experts have even estimated an annual container inflow into Nigeria at about 18 million, wondering where the shipping firms would create capacity for the quantum of empty containers generated from the inflow.

They also wonder if the firms would be able and willing to raise the financial resources required to create adequate holding bay capacity needed for the actual number of containers to be accommodated.

One of the surprises in the NPA’s entries for shipping firms’ holding bay compliance was that Grimaldi and Comet were listed as shipping firms with no holding bays as at February this year. The two are among the largest shipping firms responsible for large number of container traffic in Nigeria.

Over the years shipping firms have refused to comply with NPA’s directive given 12 years ago to establish holding bays to receive the empty containers swiftly, pending the readiness of their return back to the vessels taking them out of the country.

According to the NPA document, CMA-CGM, a French based shipping firm with operations in Nigeria, has capacity for only 800 containers.

While GAC shipping has capacity for only 600, Blue Funnel’s holding bay facility can only take 300, same number for Messina shipping line.

For Hull Blyth (Former Elder Demster), and Cosco shipping company, 2,450 and 400 were recorded as their capacity for holding bays respectively.

The record also shows that while Lansal shipping has capacity for about 1,850 the facility of  Mediterranean Shipping Company, MSC, takes 3,300, which indicates it has the biggest facility so far.

Maersk shipping has capacity for only 1,400, Grimaldi, an Italian based shipping firm that operate some of the biggest vessels in the world, has no holding bay for its empty containers.

For the Pacific International Shipping, PIL, its capacity for empty containers was put at 780 while 1,055 was recorded for MOL.

A breakdown of the figures shows that about five shipping firms namely PIL, Blue Funnel, Messina, GAC, and CMA CGM use the facility provided by Bollore, a French transport and logistics company.

The Bollore facility currently accommodates a total of 2,130 empty containers for the five shipping companies.

A further breakdown shows that five other logistics and transport firms namely Sifax Off-road terminal, Unity Bonded Terminal, Falcon Bonded Terminal Joelith Holdings and Port Express Services, have offered their holding bay facilities to some of these shipping firms to store their empties. The record further showed that Maersk line has about 1,400 empty containers currently stored at Unity Bonded Terminal and HBX facility in Apapa.

For Falcon Bonded Terminal and Port Express Services, a total of 2,100 empties belonging to GAC and Lansal shipping are also being accommodated at these facilities. 

Speaking on the issue of non-compliance of shipping companies with regards to holding bays, the Deputy National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto told Vanguard Maritime Reports that there has been a directive from the NPA to these firms to ensure that they go back with the equivalent numbers of empty containers whenever they sail into Nigeria with laden containers.

Farinto explained that because nobody has held any shipping company accountable for their non-compliance, their disobedience to government’s directive has become a norm.

He disclosed that the shipping firms bring in a combined number of about 18million containers in the country annually.

He disclosed that more than half of these containers are not destined for Nigeria but because these shipping firms have seen Nigeria as dumping ground for their empty containers, they keep moving their empties into the country.

“The total number of shipping firms operating in Nigeria do not have the capacity to accommodate the number of containers their vessels bring into Nigeria.

“Shipping firms have turned Nigeria to their dumping ground because nobody is challenging them and until they are forced to do the right thing we will keep having problems of congestion we are experiencing now”.

A logistics expert and President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, confirmed that a directive from the NPA to shipping firms for them to move out the empty containers equivalent to the number they bring in as imports.

The NPA was recently forced to suspend some shipping firms for their non-compliance with the holding bay directive.

But two days ago the suspension was lifted for review with some conditions.

Among the conditions are that the affected companies must increase the capacity of their Holding Bays ranging from 1,800 TEUs (Twenty Equivalent Units) to 7,500 TEUs;  that the affected companies will sign-off on the capacity of the Holding Bays verified at the end of the grace period; and that at the expiration of the two weeks an inspection will be conducted to ascertain compliance.

The Authority warned, that further sanctions will be applied on failure to meet the said conditions.


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