By Godwin Oritse
CONTRARY to claims by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, that the ports in Lagos are filled up to their brims, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, STOAN, has said that the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, and the Tin Can Island Port Complex, both in Lagos, are not congested but were operating at less than 70 per cent capacity.
According to a statement issued by STOAN spokesman, Bolaji Akinola, the association said the major challenge facing the ports was the road access, which has become severely dilapidated.
Akinola who said that it was necessary to correct the notion being given to the public about the state of the ports in Lagos, noted: “It is important to correct the misunderstanding of the public about the ports. The hinterland infrastructure leading to the ports in Lagos, namely the roads, are at breaking points. The ports are not congested and are not at breaking points.
“Most of the terminals in the two ports are operating below capacity. The busiest terminals are operating at less than 70 per cent at the yard and 60 per cent at berth. So there is no port congestion anywhere as of today.”
Akinola explained that the ports in Lagos have the capacity to handle beyond the volume of cargo they are handling at the moment if government pays attention to the issue of dilapidated port access roads as well as put an end to the manual handling of cargo clearing processes deployed by the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said the port operation is not about the size of the port only, but about the efficiency of the connecting facilities around the port. “I think the major problem we have at hand is that successive governments allowed the port access roads to degenerate. The two main entry routes into the Lagos ports are the Ijora-Wharf Road and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
“The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, which is the major road to the ports with six lanes, had packed up several years ago. Every petroleum tanker, port truck and trucks belonging to the many manufacturing concerns in Apapa now use the narrow Ijora-Wharf Road, which is not even in a perfect state also. These results in the inevitable chaos we see on the roads. If these roads are repaired as they should be, the chaos will disappear.”
The STOAN spokesman also said ports in other parts of the country were not immune to the challenges of bad roads.
He said the Onitsha River Port, recently constructed by the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, was not functional because of bad roads.
“Also, if you visit the ports in Rivers State – Onne and Port Harcourt Ports – and the ones in Delta State, it is the same story of dilapidated roads. The roads are bad and trucks spend several hours trying to get in and out of the ports,” Akinola said.
Akinola called on the Federal Government to embark on “urgent comprehensive repairs” of the roads leading to all the ports in the country, especially the Lagos ports. He also tasked the government on the provision of functional truck parks in Apapa to stop trucks from parking on the roads and impeding the flow of traffic.
“We have spoken in the past also about the need to develop alternative modes of haulage in the country. The over-reliance on road haulage is not healthy or sustainable for the country. The Federal Government will need to get the rails working so that cargoes can be moved around the country by rail. NIWA should also focus its energy on enhancing waterways transportation, as some cargoes can also be moved to their final destinations by the waterways,” Akinola added.