The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has stopped the renewal of licences for shipping firms who fail to provide holding bays for empty containers.
Failure of the shipping firms to establish a holding bay where empty containers are to be stacked is a major factor for the congestion currently being experienced at the ports.
The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who confirmed this during the 14th yearly, Business Law e-conference, said: “We actually refused to renew licences to shipping companies; they have to give evidence of having empty container holding bays that is commensurate with the vessels they bring in.
“I encourage stakeholders to write directly to us to the extent that you identify issues affecting this procedure, and I will also push that in our system to ensure there is adequate monitoring.
“I will get our team to get back to you by next week so that we can ensure that the shipping companies adhere to what was agreed in terms of maintaining the balance between what is coming in and what is going out.
Bala Usman also advocated for an intermodal system to ease the movement of cargoes, and attributed the incompletion of the rail project to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think there is a need for us to recognize the need to use intermodal transportation systems. You can’t have 90% of your cargoes being moved through the road alone; the road will get congested and will be spoilt. We must strengthen the utilisation of inland waterways. We must drive and have our rails system concluded; if not for the COVID-19, we would have concluded our rail connectivity,” she said.
She also bemoaned the dearth of truck parks, stressing the need for designated places for trucks to stay and wait for call-up, saying: “If we don’t have designated places for trucks to wait and only to wait for a call-up, the trucks will just wake up and drive to the ports.
Lagos State Government must take ownership in providing dedicated truck terminals, where there will be linkage and a call-up with the terminal operators at the ports. But when we have 36 No truck locations all around the Apapa environment, how do you think you are going to sanitize the area? In the Apapa environment, we have 36 truck parks that lack any form of equipment. I have always advocated for us to have larger truck parks that are outside of the port environment, dedicated for that purpose and only come when we are using the call-up system.
“Nigerian ports are not responsible for providing truck terminals. What we know is that truck parks are local government issues, it is a Lagos State issue, so Lagos State Government must rise up to that and provide those parks,” she said.
She added that to ease the situation, NPA had converted its Lilypond Terminal to a Truck Park, while arrangements are ongoing with Lagos and Ogun State governments to provide more truck parks.
Agreeing with Usaman, the Managing Director, Connect Rail, Edeme Kelekume, said: “There is no bigger word to describe the crisis we are going through with empty containers. The cost implication is running into billions of naira. The demurrage cost is too high and beyond what smaller players, especially the small and medium enterprises can handle.
“Having access to where you can keep your empty containers is one thing, and the holding bays around the ports are not enough, so there is a need for more holding bays.
“The infrastructure at the ports are not adequate, and this is also a challenge, as you don’t know how you can quickly be attended to and nobody is addressing the losses that are incurred. The Shipping lines must be compelled by the NPA to comply and provide holding bays,” he said.