Contrary to widely held notion, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), has declared that the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, and the Tin Can Island Port Complex, both in Lagos, are not congested.
The terminal operators said both ports are operating at less than 70 per cent capacity, noting that the major challenges facing the ports are the road access, which has become severely dilapidated.
STOAN Spokesman, Bolaji Akinola, in a statement, said: “It is important to correct the understanding 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,” he said.
Akinola said the ports in Lagos have the capacity to handle beyond the volumes of cargoes they are currently handling if government pays attention to the issue of dilapidated access roads as well as ending 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 it.
“I think the major problem we have at hand is that successive governments allowed the port access roads to degenerate so bad. 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, packed up many 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. This results in the avoidable chaos we see on the roads. If these roads are repaired as they should be, the chaos will disappear,” Akinola said.
He also said ports in other parts of the country are not immune to the challenges of bad road, noting that the Onitsha River Port, recently constructed by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), is not functional because of bad road.
“Also, if you visit the ports in Rivers State – Onne and Port Harcourt, 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,” he emphasized.
Akinola, therefore, 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,” he added.