…As Shippers Council Facilitates Evacuation of Containers by Rail
By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are indications that vessels bringing cargoes to Nigerian ports are now compelled to wait at the anchorage for 50-days due to the congestion inside the various port terminals in Lagos.
Apparently worried by the over 800 containers of export containers now stranded at Apapa port without access into the terminals due to port congestion, the Nigerian Shippers Council yesterday ensured that the evacuation of cargoes by rail resumes through APM Terminals in Apapa.
Executive Secretary of the Council, Barr Hassan Bello while speaking with journalists at the port yesterday lamented that many importers have abandoned their containers inside the port, and this has made it difficult for ships to berth with new imports.
Going forward, Bello said only export containers would be allowed to visit the port by road, while all imported cargoes would now be evacuated by barges and rail in order to decongest the port.
Bello who was represented at the event by Director of Regulatory Services, Mrs Ifeoma Ezedinma disclosed that the council recently facilitated the signing of a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) between the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and APM Terminals on how the ports can be decongested through the rail system.
According to Bello, the ultimate aim of the Council is to ensure that imported containers are evacuated by barges and rail, while export containers trapped at port gates can have access to come into the terminals.
Speaking, he said “The Shippers Council is to monitor the process of the SOP to make sure that it is efficient and it is sustained.
This would decongest our roads because we would now have multimodal access to the port, and exit through the barges and rail”
“Eventually, only export cargoes would be mandated to come in through the roads, with the waterways and road evacuation, the roads would be decongested, this is what we are working on as desirable by all parties, eventually the cost would be reduced because the economics of demand and supply would come into play”
“Henceforth, whoever causes any delay in the evacuation process would pay for it, because we are monitoring the process”
“The Council recently got increased complaints that export cargoes cannot access the port, vessels are now waiting 50-days to discharge cargoes because the terminals are completely full, the owners of imports are not taking out their cargoes, so there is no way for the exports to gain access to the terminals”
“Right now, we are not supposed to have containers stacked inside the port, the port is not a warehouse, most of the owners of these containers are reluctant to take delivery because they dont have the market for their cargoes, and they feel it is safer and cheaper being inside the port”
“During the lockdown, a lot of warehouses were locked down, so they would rather leave their containers at the port, the rippled effect is that the vessels paying to seat at anchorage before they can berth, 50 days is a lot of money, but then, guess who pays at the end of the day, the final consumers” he lamented
Also speaking, Rail District Manager of NRC Lagos, Eng Jerry Oche said that rail would be starting with two trips per day, even NRC has capacity for four trips per day.
He said “A train is made up of 19 wagons and each can take a 40foot container or two 20foot containers, this means if we do 40foot containers, this is 19 trucks taken off the roads, if we do it 20foot, that is 38 trucks off the road per trip”
According to him, the containers would be discharged at Alagomeji Terminals in Yaba, and Ijoko Terminals in Ogun State, from where trucks would now be deployed to pick them up, return the empty containers while NRC brings them back to the port.
“This is not the first time we are starting container traffic, we have been on this for quite some time, the difference today is that we are starting with an SOP, in the past, everybody was just doing their own thing, but now we have an SOP binding on APMT, NRC and every other player, and we have the Shippers Council as a supervisor”
“By the time the standard gauge is completed, the SOP would have been working seamlessly and evacuation would increase. The SOP is to give responsibility to all parties and hold them accountable” he said
On his part, External Affairs Manager of APM Terminals, Mr Daniel Odibe said the SOP would bridge the communication gap the terminal had with the railway corporation in the past, and that it would lead to efficiency with more cargoes being handled.
He said APMT is being hindered by challenges of gridlock in Apapa, and currently the terminal is pushing out 500 containers per day and this is way below its capacity.
“We always compare this to the number of containers coming in, it must be commensurate with what vessels are importing, if not, we would have a congested yard”
Odibe said the SOP is coming at the right time due to closure of a section of the Marine Beach bridge by the government.
“We really commend the Shippers Council for bringing together NRC and ourselves to bridge that communication gap”
“What we proposed was four trips in a day, but NRC advised that we start with two trains” he said