Some stakeholders in the maritime industry are calling for urgent intervention by the Federal Government to check the current congestion and gridlock within the Apapa seaport in Lagos.
The stakeholders said that the situation, caused by a myriad of factors,could degenerate into a crisis if not checked immediately.
The stakeholders listed these factors to include the port concession of 1996, non availability of critical equipment, slow procedure and bureaucracy.
Consequently, there are stacks of uncleared cargoes in the port as it often take up to a month to clear cargoes.
Mr Chris Igbokwe, one of the exhibitors at the ongoing Lagos International Trade Fair in Lagos, said that some of the generators and pumping machines planned to be exhibited at the fair had not arrived in Lagos even as the 10-day fair was drawing to a close.
“The goods were sent since September. It takes about four to five weeks to get to Nigeria and you give yourself about 10 days to receive them, but as I speak to you the goods are not out of the port,” he said.
Mrs Sarah Joseph, the Chief Executive of Midas Touch, said that she targeted the trade fair to unveil some hair extensions she ordered from India, but the goods were still inside the port.
Mr Kayode Farinto, the Vice President of Association of Nigerian Licensed CustomsAgents (ANCLA), blamed the problem on lack of critical equipment, particularly scanners at the port.
The scanners are to ensure that 80 per cent of cargoes coming int the port are not physically inspected, but go through scanners to detect them for security and appropriate revenue to government
He said that the scanners had not worked for more than 10 years now, making cargo delivery to have dropped by more than 50 per cent over the period.
The Apapa Port is the first and biggest seaport in Nigeria, sitting on about 200 hectares of land.
The Apapa Port Complex was built in 1914 although port activities started in Nigeria around the middle of the 19th Century.
The Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), the regulatory agency, was established in 1954.
It is one of the biggest revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government.
It realised about N299 billion revenue in 2017, exceeding its N250 billion target for the year.
Hádiza Balla Usman, its Managing Director, said the NPA had the potential to generate more with exportation of more agricultural produce.
The port has the capacity to accommodate 35 million metric tonnes of cargo annually, but one expert said the port was handling over 90 million metric tonnes.
In the first quarter of 2018, inward cargoes (imports) were 10.61 million tonnes, while outward cargoes (exports) were 8.11 million tonnes.
Apapa Port achieved cargo throughput of 18.72 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2018 from the 17.25 million tonnes received in the last quarter of 2017
In spite of this, there are no efforts to expand the port to accommodate more cargoes.
The recent N4.34 billion Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Federal Government, AG Dangote Construction Company, Flour Mills and NPA was only for the rehabilitation of the port’s access roads to ease traffic into the port.
Mr Lucky Amiwero, the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, said that the entire problem was caused by the concession of the port by the Federal Government in 1996 as part of the Privatisation and commercialisation programme.
Currently, there are five concessionaires operating in the port
“The concession was done without taking due consideration to holding bays and trailer parks. A place like Lagos that has five major ports has no holding bay and trailer parks,” he said.
He alleged that some of the concessionaires do not have critical equipment like the forklift to do their work.
Under the current situation, services at the Apapa Port are some of the costliest in the world.
Mr Stanley Ezenga, the Spokesman for National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders NAGAFF), said that the current problems had made it difficult for customs agents to give clients the exact cost of their services.
Mr Muda Yusuf, the Director-General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said a recent research conducted by the chamber showed that the economy was losing about N600 billion in customs revenue annually through the port.
Mr Jonathan Nicol, the President of Shippers Association Lagos State (SALS), said Nigeria was losing about N3.06 trillion on non- oil exports and about N2.8 trillion in corporate earnings annually as a result of the current situation in Apapa.
Chief Kunle Folarin, the Chairman of Ports Consultative Council, advised terminal operators to adopt the method of cargo transfer to off dock terminals to decongest both the ports and port access roads.
“Eighty per cent of containers in Morocco are handled outside the port, immediately they are discharged.
“They send them to warehouses so that the cargoes do not consume the little facilities that are available for storage within the port,” he said.
Some stakeholders have also suggested that cargoes should be diverted to other coastal ports like Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne and Warri, but their low depths will not allow big vessels to berth there.
Mrs Obiageli Obi, the Director-General of Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), said that the use of flat bottom vessels would enable ships to berth there.
“Contingency measures must be taken in tackling the traffic in Apapa. Apapa has become a national menace and an economic set back.
“With the use of flat bottom vessels, the Warri and Onne ports can receive such big ships because dredging is expensive and time consuming,” she said. (NAN)