Leading port users in Lagos have called on the government to shutdown all two Lagos ports including Apapa and Tincan on grounds growing loses in doing business at the ports.
Chairman of International Freight Forwarders Association, PTML Chapter, Sunny Nnebe, in his argument said though port users can on their own redirect their cargoes to any other port in Nigeria, cost of doing business at Lagos ports since the resumption of road repairs have become unmanageable.
But in a swift reply, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Usman, said government may not consider closing down port operations, but will continue to provide palliatives pending when the road works are over.
According to her, “it was not in the hands of government to relocate cargoes but it was importers that would decide where vessels carrying their cargoes should berth”.
But Nnebe insisted that shutting down Lagos ports would enable the road rehabilitation to go on unhindered, arguing that “If the government shuts down the port completely, importers will know that the port cannot be accessed and they have no option than to move to other ports”.
“There are ports in Rivers State; at Onne, ships can berth comfortably. The government should close down the (Apapa) port because the work cannot go on smoothly as long as there are tankers and trucks moving up and down the entire area and disrupting the work.”
Apart from the option of shutting down ports, Nnebe raised the issue of relocating the tank farms, stressing that the action would lessen the volume of vehicular traffic into Apapa since most of the vehicles entering Apapa were tankers going to take delivery of petroleum products.
Another stakeholder, Coordinator of the Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders (SNFF), Dr. Osita Chukwu, welcomed the closure of the Lagos ports, saying importers loss over N5bn every month because of the traffic situation in the area.
In his futher submission, Chukwu averred that “If one uses $10,000 to import goods only to spend $20,000 in getting the goods out of the port that is a loss”.
On the use of alternative ports as suggested by NPA, he noted that “Lagos importers are willing to move their cargoes to any other port as long as government makes that port conducive”.
“We spend five hours going into and out of Apapa every day. Many containers are involved in offshore business; the vessels carrying them cannot berth because the ones that berthed cannot leave. Some containers had been cleared by Customs after complete examination was carried out on them but these containers have been unable to get out of the port. Some containers sit on top of trucks for days in an attempt to get into the port.
“The government can shut down the port. There are other ports outside Lagos and bonded terminals that are scattered all over the country with their own excise offices. Let the government close down the port so that the road repairs can be done once and for all.”
He further disagreed with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who claimed that the Apapa gridlock would end in December, as there are no indices or appreciable level of speed or work to show that.