By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage world economy, port terminal operator in Nigeria; Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL) has said that raw materials were still being imported, allaying all fears of food scarcity in the country.
ABTL is a bulk cargo terminal, a subsidiary of Flour Mills Nigeria Limited, operating terminals A and B at the Apapa port complex.
Speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND NEWS in Lagos on Monday, Managing Director of ABTL, Capt Melvin Abe said the ports have been very busy despite the COVID-19, he however acknowledged that most industries have scaled down their operations.
He also told our correspondent that the decision of the terminal to adopt the payment by tonnage for its dockworkers was not a cost saving measure, adding that the move is to ensure efficiency in cargo handling and less waiting time for ships.
According to him, most commodities needed for household consumptions are still available in the market despite COVID-19.
While reacting to insinuations in the media that its berths are mostly empty these days, Capt Abe noted that Nigerian ports has been busy despite COVID-19.
“I am not sure where you got your information from, but I see the ABTL that we manage, I also can see the other ports and appreciate the entire traffic in the Lagos port area”
“The story with Lagos is that they are mostly busy, the ports are often full, ships still come to Nigeria, the traffic flow is not necessarily triggered or influenced by specific needs of a group, it is triggered by the way the economy of the entire country performs. So, even if Lagos is in crisis and the other parts of the country is in crisis, maritime trade would continue to flow”
“In our case, the country is still bubbling as far as we know, though industries have scaled down their operations in a lot of areas, however, we are still moving, we don’t have food scarcity, nobody has gone to the market to say they can’t find food into their houses because basic commodities are still available, this is because raw materials are still moving in unhindered, and they all come through the port”
“The only challenge is in offshore operations as regards the crude oil market, it goes up today and tomorrow it crashes, with the COVID-19 and industries shutting down, oil supply has slowed down, from what we learnt, millions of barrel of our oil were not accepted by offtakers, and so we don’t have where to put them than to leave them on the ships, and by do doing we are incurring losts. But this is not the same in the dry cargo section, the ports are still booming” he said
According to the frontline Master Mariner, maritime dock labour are governed by Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiated among various stakeholders including NIMASA, Maritime Workers Union and the terminal operators, all coming together to agree on what is acceptable, documented and signed
“The document allows for two models; payment by tonnage or by wages, whichever one works for you. But none favour more than the other, they are both the same”
“But as we move towards efficient organisation of our terminal, we are considering reviewing our model to improve efficiency and help to made cargo operations more functional, ships would have less dwell time, we are fully automated, so a lot of our operations are done by machines and very little human interaction”
“We have had the wages model for a long time, now we are considering tonnage model, but at the end, the intent of management is not to shut change the staff, the staff themselves would not see any difference order than that we are still working by what is documented in their CBA, the objective of our review is not a cost saving measure” he said