The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, has asked the Federal Government to create plan for the relocation of petroleum depots, otherwise called tank farms, from Apapa.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have over the years described the more than 60 tank farms operating in Apapa as a time bomb, and a disaster waiting to happen.
Speaking against the backdrop of the March 15 explosion at Abule Ado, Lagos State, which claimed 23 lives and displaced more than 500 people from their homes; Haastrup urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe by moving tank farms away from residential and crowded areas.
She said, “We are concerned about the preponderance of tank farms in Apapa, which is a port area and a high density town. With more than 60 tank farms operating in the area, the ports, the workers and residents of Apapa are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. We pray it does not explode, so we appeal to the Federal Government to urgently see to the relocation of these tank farms to avert a future carnage.”
She also said that in addition to bad roads and the absence of truck parks in Apapa; the large number of tank farms and oil depots has contributed to traffic congestion in the area.
“Tank farms should normally be located several miles away from the city and from the port area for safety reasons,” she said.
Princess Haastrup also called for more efficient traffic management system in Apapa to enhance the movement of vehicles while ongoing construction work lasts.
She advised the Federal Ministry of Works and the Lagos State Government to open up inner roads to allow for free flow of traffic.
The STOAN Chairman also advised the Nigeria Customs Service to concentrate more on trade facilitation, rather than revenue generation to clear congestion at the ports.
She called for the streamlining of government agencies at the port and the reduction of congestion at the port gates as a result of multiple checks by various government agencies.
“We observed that the volumes of containers handled at the ports have continued to witness geometric growth, while the supporting port infrastructures, especially the port access and Customs clearing processes, have continued to be a drag on the efficiency of the ports.
Since the first quarter of 2019 into the first quarter of this year, volumes have been growing by 20% as a result of the closure of Nigeria’s land borders. The unanticipated growth has posed a major challenge to container terminal operators.
“As a result, we advise that the Nigeria Customs Service automates its clearing and cargo release system to clear the backlog of cargoes at the port. The scanners at the port are not working, while almost all the cargoes landed at our ports are subjected to 100 percent physical examination. In Lagos ports, up to 70% of the containers are subjected to physical examination. These have to change to allow for free flow of trade,” she added.