More facts pointing to the need to unlock usage of Eastern ports of Port Harcourt, Warri, Onne and the recently refurbished Onitsha River Port have emerged.
AP Moeller Terminals, leading concessionaire at Apapa and Tin Can Ports raised fresh alarm, saying the rising volume of cargoes resulting from the recent border closure is set to break the overstressed elastic limits of the two Lagos Ports of Apapa and Tin Can.
In a statement issued by the company, it said the recent closure of the nation’s borders against smuggling had pushed a lot of containers to the seaports hence the rising danger of unbearable cargo congestion beyond the handling capacities of operators.
Besides, the glut of cargoes which analysts say is not in line with carrying capacities of Lagos ports terminals is now breading overstay of cargoes which translates to higher demurrages.
Already, freight forwarders and key stakeholders in the shipping industry under the aegis of Concerned Freight Forwarders and Transporters (CFFT), have frowned on the rising demurrage charges and other alleged arbitrary charges imposed by shipping companies and terminal operators at the nation’s ports.
They also complained about rising cost of logistics, alleged extortion, illegal charges, and delay at the terminals and gridlock at the ports.
According to the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the CFFT, Chief Andy Omenogor, “The contrived congestion in the terminal or lack of space has resulted in the inability of our designated trucks to gain access into the terminal to load.
“This unfortunate scenario can last for several days or weeks. At the same time, we are battling to access and load our cargo containers, the shipping companies will keep charging demurrage for a delay that is not caused by us but by the terminal operators who fail to make their terminals accessible for easy flow of logistics.
The aggrieved CFFT boss vowed that “Furthermore and henceforth, we will not accept progressive demurrage from any shipping company as the same has been outlawed by the Federal Government.”
Omenogor listed container deposits, holding bay, placing lien on cargo, continued harassment of transporters and illegal container transfer charges by shipping companies as the challenges confronting operators in Lagos Ports due to none use of eastern ports after all.
However, in several interviews with port business operators’ in Onne and Port Harcourt, they said this is time to step up infrastructure and logistics structures in the ports so as to begin to handle majority of the cargoes that are piling up in Lagos ports.
They decried the observed lip service given to Eastern ports by relevant port agencies, saying both the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and especially the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) know what to do to fully activate the eastern ports to save Lagos ports and environs.
The statement issued by APMT read in parts; “We have recently experienced a substantial increase in the volume of containers arriving through the seaports. This positive development can be attributed to various positive government policies such as improvement in the implementation of Ease of Doing Business policy, the Agriculture Promotion Policy and closure of land borders to curtail smuggling activities, among others.
“However, if these containers are not cleared by customers soon enough, this volume increase could lead to high yard density which could impact berthing of vessels resulting in vessel queues. We are anticipating further improvement in throughput ahead of Christmas and year end.
“We, therefore, urge all the relevant stakeholders and the wider port community to ensure timely delivery of containers in an effective manner without compromising the government’s policies and procedures.”
“We commend the Nigerian Ports Authority for operating the Lilypond Transit Truck Park and the Presidential Task Team on decongesting Apapa access roads for their effective implementation of the call-up system and traffic management system, respectively.
“As for the terminal, we assure the shipping lines and our customers that we are dedicating adequate resources despite the seasonal bad weather, working closely with the port authority, other relevant agencies and stakeholders for improved terminal performance to ensure prompt cargo delivery after release by the Nigeria Customs Service.”