Lagos Ports Access Crisis: Amaechi Meets Relevant Agencies Next Month
· Why MSC Containers Flood Tin Can Port Access Roads – Lyche
· Over 20,000 MSC teus trapped in Nigeria
· Port stakeholders condemn NSC’s move to assign staff to ports
As part of efforts to find a lasting solution to the Lagos ports access roads characterized by unending traffic gridlock, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has pledged to meet all relevant agencies on January 19, 2021.
The Transport Minister gave this assurance on Friday last week, while inspecting the Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Port access roads.
Amaechi, who was accompanied by the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman and Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello, also directed the immediate evacuation of trucks clustering the port environs, noting that such practice was an additional impediment to port access.
Meanwhile, the NPA boss said that by January 2021, an electronic truck call-up system for trucks would be introduced that would resolve the gridlock that has become synonymous with the port operations.
According to her, the agency is working with the Lagos State government to create truck parks at designated areas.
She noted that the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led government was planning to give a designated truck park at Orile where trucks will park until their cargoes are cleared electronically before they proceed into the port.
“We are planning to deploy an e-call-up system in January 2021. We will provide an electronic call-up system within the ports and designated truck parks. No more trucks parking randomly on the road,” she said.
Amid reports that the crisis on the Tin Can Island Port (TCIP) access roads is being exacerbated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) which has the most empty containers lingering on the port corridor, the shipping company has revealed why it has been the biggest culprit.
The Managing Director of MSC Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Lyche said MSC containers flood the Tin Can Island Port environs because the company uses only TCIP for its operations, revealing that the company currently has over 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers stuck in Nigeria
Lyche was making these revelations following plans by some aggrieved agents to picket the company and an indictment by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) recently on its unprofessional conducts leading to abandonment of empty containers in the country.
The MSC boss also argued that the company had four holding bays for empty containers and blamed the empty container conundrum on the inaccessible port access roads.
His words: “One of the things people have to understand about MSC and Tin Can Island is that the company doesn’t do business in Apapa. MSC carries the second largest cargoes into Nigeria, only behind Maersk Line but cargoes come in via Tin Can Island Port. So, when people lament that MSC’s situation is worse at Tin Can; it’s because that is the only port we utilize in Lagos.”
Addressing complaints that MSC doesn’t have holding bays, the MSC manager said; “It is erroneous to say MSC has no holding bays. We have holding bays at Lagos-Badagry expressway on the Old Ojo road. This one is close to Satellite town and the reason we cited it there is because our operations are done in Tin Can. We utilize three terminals in Tin Can; which are Five Star, Ports and Cargo and TICT. We started patronizing TICT as a result of the congestion which made it difficult to get our vessels to Ports and Cargo”
Speaking with MMS Plus during the penultimate week, the ANLCA Tin Can Chapter Chairman, Prince Olusegun Oduntan said; “MSC and other shipping companies have turned Nigeria into a dumping ground for empty containers. We haven’t implemented the provision of empty containers holding bays. Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) came up with the novel idea to introduce insurance and remove container deposits, how long will it take to implement this? Who is regulating these shipping companies and terminal operators?”
Following the myriad of challenges inhibiting cargo evacuation at the TCIP which has reached the peak, freight forwarding practitioners under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) resolved to embark on a strike and picket MSC.
He stressed that the company was losing bookings in Asia, especially in China, as a result of shortage of empty containers mainly trapped in Nigeria with over 20,000 empty containers currently trapped in the country.
According to him, MSC had delivered 82218 twenty foot units (teus) of containers into Nigeria between January and September 2020, but had only been able to evacuate 62,857 in the same timeframe with the help of two sweeper vessels which arrived the country empty just to pick empty containers.
“Every MSC box trapped in Nigeria represents a potential lost in other parts of the world. We have no desire to keep containers in Nigeria or as some people claim that we dump containers in Nigeria. We need the containers for our business in other parts of the world,” he said.
Speaking on barge operations, he lamented that the difficulty in evacuating cargoes by roads was affecting barge operations with MSC having over 13 containers trapped at the waterfronts along TCIP during the penultimate week.
“Sometimes, the barges wait for two or three days to be discharged and they also hinder ships that could arrive within the period to offload containers. There is no doubt that barging is part of the solutions to the problems at Tin Can, but that would only be possible if the terminals have the capacity to handle the barges fast enough,” the MSC boss queried.
Meanwhile, there is also palpable fear over new opportunities for extortion as NSC considers assigning its officials to respective terminals and shipping companies.
The Executive Secretary, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello, stated during a routine visit to shipping companies in Lagos, that the move would enable NSC play a more proficient economic regulatory role at the ports as the Council would be better placed to monitor the activities of shipping companies and terminals.
Some port stakeholders, however, have argued that the move wouldn’t yield the anticipated results if the road infrastructure and appalling disposition of terminals and shipping companies to government directives doesn’t change.
This development is also being lambasted as another effort to overcrowd the seaports which already have representatives of too many government agencies.
Some top Customs officers also fault the move on the grounds that the ports are Customs ports and other government agencies would have to work from outside the ports and only come in when their services are needed.
Speaking on this development, a Deputy Controller of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) who pleaded anonymity said: “NSC management and other port stakeholders ought to study the Section 12 and 18 of the Customs Excise Management Act (CEMA). Everyone wants to be at the ports. What has happened to the road infrastructure and rail connectivity which are the main problems at Lagos ports?”
Corroborating the views above, the President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (APFFLON) Mr. Frank Ogunojemite said the allocation of NSC staff would stop the nonchalant attitudes of terminals and shipping companies.
His words: “As far as I’m concerned, assigning people to terminals isn’t the main issue. The main issue is getting terminals and shipping companies to adhere to directives. If NSC assigns people to these companies, those assigned there really can’t force the companies to comply. There must be some level of understanding between the regulator and the concessionaires or shipping companies.”
“This also gives credence to the call for NSC to be part of the port concession review because you can only ask people to waive demurrages when you know the terms of contract they signed with the government. This is why APFFLON insisted that NSC should be part of the review of the port concessionaire’s agreement.