In this exclusive interview with DAILY TREND NEWS correspondent DAPO OLAWUNI, the Managing Director of Inland Container Nigeria Limited (ICNL) Mr. Ismail Yusuf has said that transportation of containers from Lagos seaports to Ikorodu, a Lagos Suburb is costing importers more money in terms of haulage cost.
The movement of cargoes by barges to Ikorodu has peaked recently due to the perennial traffic gridlock in Apapa. Importers now prefer to transport their cargoes from the seaport by barge to Ikorodu, from where they now bring in trucks to evacuate them.
What are your challenges as Nigeria’s foremost total logistics provider?
Recently, moving cargoes by rail has been challenging, this is because of the new standard gauge rail line that government is constructing to Ibadan, this is now affecting the operations of the old narrow gauge, before they got to the Lagos area, we have been moving containers through railway.
The promise is that by this month or next month, they would have laid back the old narrow gauge so that we can continue our own operations to the Kaduna Dry Port
The rail from Apapa to Kaduna would start functioning again as soon as they have laid back the narrow gauge.
As a result of the construction of the new standard gauge, some of the old rail tracks have been removed to pave way because it was obstructing their construction, so they are doing a lay back, as soon as they remove the old one, they put in a new one, unless the new one is very far from the old one.
What are your expectations in this year 2020?
The minister of Transportation has promised that by April, the standard gauge would be completed, if they could be able to do this, passengers would be going their own way, while the users of rail services would continue to use it to move our cargoes from Lagos seaports to Kaduna and Kano.
What is your take on the increase in the use of barges for cargo evacuation?
You know why people want to use barge now? for me it is not cost efficient, but it is because don’t have choice, that is why they are using it now because of the gridlock we are facing here. Otherwise, when we were not facing this gridlock, how many people did you see that are taking the barge?
The transporter that you want to engage to lift the container from wherever the barge is going to take it to, it is still regarded as Lagos, so what they are charging you from Kano to Lagos is still what they are going to charge you.
From Apapa port to Itoikin in Ikorodu both in Lagos, the transporter would not look at it that they are going to a different place to lift container, it is the same charge.
Don’t forget that the owners of the cargo must have paid for the cost of moving the container from the seaport to the barge point, this may be around N385,000.00 and where transporters are charging N1.2 million now, add it to together and you would be taking your container at N1, 585,000,00.
It is not economical but they don’t have a choice, instead of loosing your customers and your product, you would be forced to pay.
However, what happens at the end of the day is that it all comes back to the end users, because everybody is in business to make profits.
This year 2020, what is your permanent recipe to the Apapa traffic gridlock?
I have suggested it several times, we must have an efficient terminal operations inside the port. Secondly, we should have an electronic call up system, if you don’t have business doing at the port, you should not go there, when you have the call up tag, as soon as you get to the gate, it would clock you into the port, but if you don’t have any business doing at the port, when you put your tag into the machine, the gate would not be opened for you, this means you don’t have any business at the port.
Do you think we are matured enough to have this kind of system at Nigerian Ports?
What kind of maturity do we need again? If it requires that the authority get a standby generator to operate it then they must go and buy one, don’t you know the amount of money we are losing at our ports? Ask APMT, a terminal operator at Apapa port, at other countries where they operate, don’t they have this kind of arrangement?
I have been to South Africa, Kenya, United States and at all these ports, this is the system they operate, you would not see anybody at the port, they don’t even do examination, you would only see the plant operator and the truck driver. If this can be implemented at Nigerian ports, there would be sanity.
But I believe everybody just like the human contact going on at our ports right now so that they can extort money from you.
Also, the operators are not doing the right thing, that is why the government agencies want to take advantage of them, so all of us are to be blamed.
Food vendors, hawkers have taken over Nigerian ports, this does not project our ports well internationally
This is because we want it that way, government should put a policy in place, of course we have people that would implement it, if they violate it, then you sanction them. As a trader, if your goods are seized today, tomorrow they seize it again, when you no longer have capital to operate again, definitely you would go away.
Do you think the NPA policy on vessel diversion to eastern port is workable?
If the laws establishing the NPA empowers them to do that, there is nothing anyone can do about it, they must have a reason for coming up with such policy, if everybody understands their reason, we just support them.
But if it is beyond their power, then they would face legal actions, because if I have chosen Lagos as my port of destination, and now you are adding more cost to my cost by taking the container to Onne, Warri or Calabar port, who pays the transport back to Lagos, are there any incentives to cushion the effect? If the incentive is not there, NPA will face litigations.