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Why Lagos ports may never be free from congestion

Modern ports are known to be transit area and holding bay but not a storage zone. But the reverse is the case in Nigerian ports.

Today, the nation’s two leading ports located in the heart of Apapa the are regarded as storage area and residential environment. Lagos ports are currently congested because of warehouses and residential homes built around the ports.

Other factors contributing to the congestion around the ports include bad road network, cumbersome transit procedures, inefficient logistics systems and poor infrastructure.

Daily Sun learnt that some of the existing infrastructure in the ports were built over 40 years ago. Industry watchers have therefore, called for renewal of the infra- structure around the ports in order to facilitate greater customer satisfaction.

But in spite of the harsh operating environment, the ports have witnessed slight upward improvement in the recent times. For instance, within the first quarter of 2019, the ports berthed a total of 213 ships with a tonnage of 6,778,397 with a cargo throughput of 4, 790, 282, which was an improvement over 2018.

However, economic experts have predicted a more horrendous congestion as a result of projected increase in volume of port activities in the near future and the haphazard port management system in the country.

According to some experts, the Federal Government’s efforts to fix the Apapa and Tin Can port access roads to address the problem of port congestion may only see the problem dissipate for about four or five years but the menace would return worse than its current state.

At a recent event, which took place at the MMS Plus International Image Centre in Lagos, experts said that the port corridor must be reserved and restricted as an exclusive economic zone.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, revealed that he had worked on the issue of port corridor for over 16 years, yet he was unhappy that his predictions on the port corridor were correct.

He added: “The port corridor should be a restricted economic zone. It is a place that should be exclusive for port operations. However, in Nigeria we have several residential houses surrounding the ports. Some of them are 10 meters from the port, so it is no longer a port corridor.

“Another issue is that a port is a transit area, a holding bay but not a storage area. It should be an area where ships discharge cargoes and the cargoes should leave the ports just as the ships also leave the ports. It is a transit area not supposed to hold onto a cargo or ship beyond a certain time.”

Speaking on the issue, the veteran maritime analyst argued that the mechanism for port operations is multimodal adding that the transit nature of the ports explain why demurrage is placed on ships and the containers bring- ing in cargoes and the containers stored in the ports also pay ground rent.

He advised: “Until we install a multimodal concept and infra- structure at the ports, we would continue to have a recurring decimal of congestion at the ports. Within the port environment up to 4km should be only warehouses for cargoes, roads for movement of port cargoes by trucks or railway. There should also be a ring road exclusive for port operations.”

According to him, when the Oshodi-Apapa expressway was constructed, it was perceived that the road would only service Tin Can Island Port but it has become a municipal transport area and not just for port traffic.

Said he: “In a day, one million vehicles transit around Apapa, Oshodi and Ebute-Metta at the peak time. If the nation continues to prosper and the volume of cargo traffic increases, then Nigeria would discover that it is much difficult to manage prosperity than poverty.”

Meanwhile, the CEO, Kings Communications Limited, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke said: ““There was a time I was able to get investors ready to fix the Tin Can Port access roads and toll the road. The government hasn’t fixed the road because of paucity of funds as it hasn’t been factored in the nation’s budget in the last three years.

“I asked one of the Directors in the Ministry of Works if I could bring in partners to fix the road and collect tolls. The people were ready to construct the road to the best standards; invest and get their money back over a period of time. The Ministry declined that proposal because someone has to make some percentage when it eventually gets budgetary allocation.”

He stressed that Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the country had been limited by the frequent policy changes and the lack of confidence in the government.

“There are several people abroad who have shown interest in investing in Nigeria or financing one project or the other. However, the government policies keep discouraging them. I have made efforts to bring in some Koreans to finance a project but they came in and the problem was the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) model” he said.

Anaroke lamented that ICRC copied the PPP model from foreign countries but has refused to rejig it to suit the peculiarities in Nigeria.
Source: Sun News Online

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