Port Congestion: Stakeholders Reveal Lasting Solutions

stakeholders proffer solutions to the menace of Port congestion and gridlock

Port congestion and access road gridlock in Apapa Lagos have become a recurring decimal in maritime and business discourses nationwide.

The Nigerian maritime industry largely seated at the Apapa seaports axis of Lagos is the epicenter of import-export business and a critical contributor to the national economy.

The industry is valued with the prospect of generating over $8billion annually to the economy if properly harnessed through well harmonized policies, fully automated ports operations and tighter synergy among government agencies and industry stakeholders.

As an import dependent nation, the importance of the Lagos ports to the national economy cannot be overemphasized; little wonders the Nigerian business environment and indeed the nation literally catches a cold when Apapa ports sneeze.

However, a key issue bedeviling the industry – the perennial port congestion and the attendant cargoes delay and incessant gridlock on roads leading to the seaports, which has defied all solutions thrown at it, is currently at its worst, and has almost brought business within and around the Apapa and Tin can seaports axis to a grinding halt.

This is as empty containers which ordinarily should load imported cargoes at the ports and deliver to importers warehouse ideally within two or three days now stay grounded on long endless queues waiting for weeks to gain access to the seaports!

The port operations, around which this gridlock is located, involve cargo throughput, truck movement, terminal operations, customs cargo clearance, charges and fees, demurrage, empty containers handling and call up system.

The Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), terminal operators, shipping companies and Nigeria Shippers Council are the custodians of these processes.

Don’t miss: Federal Government Announces Roads to Benefit from N8.1b Fund

These processes, critical stakeholders alleged, are replete with official corruptions and extortions fueled by decaying infrastructure, cumbersome physical inspections and endless delays, and responsible for the gridlock and port congestions.

But government through its agencies, including the NPA, NCS and others highlighted previous efforts as well as urgent interventions already in the pipe line to further reassure stakeholders on proffering lasting solutions to the intractable maze of Lagos port congestion.

The embarrassing gridlock is not a new problem but seemed to have assumed a monstrous dimension despite various federal governments’ moves to fix it.

Prior to the Federal government intervention on May 24th, 2019 via the set-up of the Presidential Task Team, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had earlier engaged the Naval Authority to collaborate with its personnel over the issue.

The problem however grew worse until the naval personnel were chased away due to their alleged unbridled extortions.

Nigeria’s port crisis: the $4,000 charge to carry goods across Lagos

Then the Presidential Task Team comprising all relevant security agents headed by Chairman Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Comrade Kayode Opeifa, a former Lagos commissioner for Transportation took over in 2019 with an initial three months deadline to restore sanity to the chaotic port access roads and clear out the port congestion.

But when the government realized the enormity, the deadline was extended by another three months. Eventually, the task team spent 17 months before it was also disbanded in October 2020 by the government. Even at that, the problem was far from being over.

stakeholders proffer solutions to the menace of Port congestion and gridlock

The governments and its agencies are clearly bothered about the menace and are indeed unrelenting with efforts to cure the malaise. Following previous interventions, the Lagos state governor in an unscheduled and the fourth visit to Apapa over traffic congestion, on Monday December 28, 2020, announced the state’s decision to take over traffic management and enforcement of the Presidential Task Team on Port Decongestion and create a new operational template for the Unit, which will be enforced by a combined team of officers of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the police in order to restore sanity to the area.

Governor Sanwo-Olu having also promised stakeholders that sharp practices and inadequacies observed in the handling of the container operations at the ports would be escalated to the Minister of Transport while the misconduct of the policemen stationed close to the ports would be reported to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

In the same vein, the NPA also plans to introduce electronic call-up system and automated Transit Truck Park in January, 2021, in a bid address the scourge of port congestion but stakeholders appear still worried and desperately longing to see drastic changes soon that will finally rest port congestion in the dustbin of history.

Comment here