By Godwin Oritse
Activities at the Lagos Port Complex, LPC, may be going through a lull as 24 empty ship berths were recorded on the average last week, giving an occupancy rate of about 54 per cent, against the full capacity of 52 berths.
Hitherto, the berths are usually busy at 100 per cent occupancy rate with vessels on queue to berth.
Maritime operators told Vanguard Maritime Report that though at 44 per cent vacancy rate it appears an improvement against last month’s position, but going by the trend in recent times the vacancy rate may still go above 60 per cent by end of the month.
The vacancy rate peaked at 60 per cent last month when occupancy was 21 against 31 vacancies.
Previous week the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, said that there has been a steady decrease in vessel calls to the country’s ports.
The vacancy rate has been sustained in the month of September, with industry operators indicating it would continue until unforeseeable future.
The total 52 berths in the LPC stretches from Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited operated by Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, in Apapa to Five Star Logistics in Tin-Can Island Port.
The shortest of the empty berths measures about five metres long and the longest is 200 metres.
The NPA’s shipping position document showed that some of the berths have remained empty for several weeks.
Analysts are saying that this is the first time the port is recording so many empty berths for so long a time.
Speaking on the development, the Deputy National President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, CILT, Nigeria, Mr. Alban Igwe, described the situation as under utilization of infrastructure”.
Igwe said our ports have the capacity to accommodate more vessel calls at the ports, but for security reasons vessels are sceptical about calling at Nigerian ports.
He stated: “The market is becoming less attractive and do not forget that security issues around our ports are beginning to affect vessels coming to our ports.
“We need to make our ports more business friendly so that at any point in time there are no empty spaces.”
According to Igwe the port is likely to record job losses due to the development as there would be no return on the investments made in the ports as a result of the berths redundancy.
“The economic implication is that, first there is loss of jobs, secondly, the investment in the port is not yielding returns because you have redundant investments.
“For any vessel that calls at the port bring about jobs for the locals, people are engage in work and each vessel that comes into the port pays some dues by way of fees and taxes to Nigeria.That is an economic loss on its own.”
He suggested that if the business environment is made to be friendly, there will be scramble for these empty spaces.
Similarly, the National President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, explained that the situation at the ports may not be unconnected with the fact that most of the operators in Apapa Port Complex are not common carriers.
Amiwero said that apart from A. P. Moller Terminal that accommodates common carrier vessels, other operators have designated vessel schedule with specific kind of cargoes.
Efforts to speak with the operators of some of the affected berths were futile as most declined comments.