With the roads leading to the nation’s major ports in Tin Can Island and Apapa almost impassable, the prospects of moving empty containers from holding bays to ports via barges has become the only viable option to get the containers to the ports speedily; nevertheless some questions arise; who bears the additional cost of using barges? Do the gains outweigh the fiscal constraints? How would shipping companies, terminal operators, importers, freight forwarders, among other stakeholders react to this development?
As part of efforts to address some of these concerns, MMS Plus newspaper visited Mr. Leonard Anyanwu, the Terminal Coordinator of Bollore Transport and Logistics Nigeria Limited.
Anyanwu, who has over 25 years experience in port operations in the country, explains the ordeal;
“Most of the holding bays have loaded empty containers up to the maximum capacity so they can’t absorb more containers. The problem led to trucks laden with empty containers parking on the roads. We have trucks lined up on Oshodi-Apapa road, Ago Palace road, Lagos-Badagry expressway, Orile-Costain road, Old Ojo road, among others, as a result of the directive by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that all empty containers should be kept at holding bays”
According to Anyanwu this has also increased the cost for the shipping companies who are putting the cost on the importers right from the foreign countries.
“They are introducing new charges on imports coming to Nigeria to cover the cost for holding bay. It is more expensive for them to operate a holding bay because in the past they entered agreement with terminal operators for their empty containers to be at the ports. Moving containers by barges is the only solution for now and that is what we do for most of our customers like Maersk Line, PIL, among others. The movement of empty containers via barges comes at extra cost to the shipping companies” he said.
Although some shipping companies are equally moving containers by rail but that the challenge is that the rail doesn’t cut across the major ports. While there is a rail link to Apapa port, there’s none for Tin Can Island Port.
It is unfortunate that a ship would wait for days at the ports but the empty container transiting via the roads would be unable to get to the ports within three days.
“While the ship has three days to spend at the port, it would take the truck ten days to get to the port, before the truck gets to the port the ship has sailed. The ship can’t afford to wait longer because it would have to pay demurrage” he stressed.
Since the integral challenges on the roads especially the port axis has strongly affected ports operations in the country, barges remains the only viable option. Therefore, the Federal Government should accelerate the completion of the rail and ongoing road construction projects to support the inter-modal transport system and for enhanced operations at the ports.