…As Port Congestion Trapped 40 Vessels At Lagos Anchorage
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Nigerian Shippers Council has knocked indigenous terminal operator in Nigeria; Ports and Cargo Handling Company, a subsidiary of SIFAX Group, saying that the terminal has been poor in service delivery to shippers and that it was lagging behind in terms of automation.
This is even as 40 vessels are currently trapped at the Lagos Anchorage due to the congestion inside the various port terminals at Tin Can Island Port.
Speaking during a working visit to Ports and Cargo Terminal at the Tin Can Island Port on Tuesday, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello said the terminal was one of the worst in terms of automation as it is merely operating on 25%.
Bello also said the Council has been receiving a lot of complaints from port users about poor service delivery at Ports and Cargo, saying that Cargo sometimes stay four months in the terminal which customers struggle to take delivery by barges.
He also said the council has been inundated with complaints of the terminal stemming cargoes to offdock terminals without the consent of the importer, while at the same time charging the importer.
Bello warned that the Shippers Council would not hesitate to sanction Ports and Cargo Terminal if the situation continues, saying that this is unacceptable and against the international contract of carriage and affreightment.
“Another issue we have is delays associated with transfer and loading of barges despite the fact that these barges belong to your terminal. At times, delays span around 4 months before barges are loaded and transfered. We won’t accept this anymore. The port is a transit point, not a warehouse”
“In the area of automation, this terminal has not been found to be appealing. Infact, the terminal was scored 25 percent when other terminals were scoring 60 percent and 75 percent. By first quarter of 2021, we need all the ports to be fully automated.”
The Shippers Council boss acknowledged that the bad access roads was a challenge, he however said the concessionaire should stop using this as an excuse to cover up its lack of efficiency.
He noted that the Tin Can Island Port road construction is 75% completed.
He urged the terminal to invest more in equipment, and deploy technology in stacking containers and yard operations, saying that currently containers are not properly stacked.
Responding to the complaints of the Executive Secretary , the Managing Director of Ports and Cargo Handling Services, Mr. John Jenkins blamed the deplorable State of the ports access roads to the slow process of cargo evacuation at the terminal.
Jenkins raised that currently, about 40 vessels are trapped at Lagos Anchorage, unable to access the port due to congestion inside the terminals. He however said the congestion is not peculiar to his terminal alone.
In his words, “the problems at the ports is the road. If the ports access roads problem is solved, all the problems inside the ports will be solved. There are no transfer of containers by road anymore because of the state of the roads.
Jerkins, said the terminal was recording 8000 TEUs monthly despite the deplorable state of the road.
“I don’t know the number of vessels that are currently at the anchorage now but I know its well above 40 vessels right there at sea.
“At least for Ports and Cargo, we have about six to seven of our vessels stranded at the Lagos anchorage due to the state of the roads,” Jerkins lamented.
Jerkins maintained that the 8,000 TEUs are ferried through barges monthly, adding that over a 100,000 TEUs can be recorded annually.
He admitted that there were more containers to be moved outside the terminal but they were unable to move them due to the congestion.
“Everybody wants to take everything in by barge and everybody wants to take out their containers by barge as well , at the same time” he lamented
On the deplorable state of the road, he said, “So it takes two hours to move out 20 containers out of the terminal through barging and we do six to eight barging operation a day.
” But doing 8,000 TEUs in a month is no joke. We want to do better, we can do better but the point that we are not performing, I refute,” he argued .
He called on the government to provide palliative along the second gate axis , where a 35- meter stretch portion needs urgent attention to allow easy flow of vehicles out of the port.
In the area of automation, the terminal however admitted its shutcomings, saying that the Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group, Dr.Taiwo Afolabi is aware of the challenges and is equally not happy with the situation.
“We are looking into this issue of automation and very soon, we will be bringing in IT experts to help look into this.”