August 10, 2022

Reporters’ Diary

Factual Reportage

Port operations: Terminal operators list challenges, proffer solutions

The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) says dilapidated access roads, poor traffic management and manual examination of cargo by the customs service remain some of the major challenges facing port operations in the country.

Dr Bolaji Akinola, STOAN spokesman, listed the challenges in a statement issued in Lagos on Monday.

Akinola said that the challenges existed even though operations inside the port terminals across the country were well-organised and professionally coordinated by the concessionaires.

He said that terminal operators, like other business entities in Apapa, were victims of the “dysfunctional state and chaos” on the port access roads.

“Terminal operators do not have any role to play or responsibility to bear on the road. We don’t own the road; we don’t control the roads; and we don’t control happenings on the road.

“We cannot control the security agencies saddled with the responsibility of managing traffic on the road,” Akinola said.

He said that the terminal operators, more than any other entity in the logistics chain, bore the brunt of the Apapa traffic congestion, as it hampered the evacuation of cargo from the port.

“The business of terminal operators is to keep trade moving. We don’t make money from cargo sitting at the terminal.

”Our profitability is in the volume of cargo we handle, so it is in our best interest for cargo to leave the port as soon as possible.

“It should be noted that the problem with the roads leading into and out of Apapa is caused by bad roads, numerous check points mounted by security agencies and rickety trucks.

If these three issues are addressed and adequate parking lots provided for trucks, the gridlock will become history.

Akinola said the fact that the roads were cleared and rid of the notorious traffic anytime President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos “showed that security operatives know what to do to deliver us all from the pains we suffer daily from the gridlock.”

“In 2019, when the President visited Lagos, the otherwise intractable Apapa gridlock disappeared. The gridlock also disappeared on June 10, 2021 when he visited to commission the rail line and the Deep Blue project.

“It is not terminal operators that cleared the road; it was the same security operatives that manned the road that cleared it.”

He wondered why the security operatives would not continue to clear the road on a daily basis since they were able to do it during the President’s visit.

Akinola said that the trucks that had direct business at the port were less than half the number of trucks seen on the road.

He said that the other half consisted of petroleum tankers heading to petroleum jetties/tank farms as well as trucks owned by some Apapa-based manufacturing concerns.

“A few days ago, the Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, said NPA counted about 30 checkpoints mounted by security and traffic management officials on the roads in Apapa.

”It has nothing to do with terminal operators. We cannot control the action of these government officials. Only government can call them to order,” he said.

Akinola said private terminal operators at the seaports invested N538 billion in port development from 2006 when the ports were concessioned to December 2017.

He said the ports had become much more efficient than they were before the 2006 concession, but regretted that those who thrived in chaos wanted to cast aspersion on the concession exercise since orderliness does not benefit their pockets.

“Port concession has endured and it is the most successful privatization exercise of the Nigerian government.

“Port terminal operators have done very well. If not for the terminal operators, our ports would have since gone into a meltdown. We were all witnesses to the inefficiency and chaos in the port before concession.

Akinola said that the Federal Government’s revenue from the ports had more than tripled in the 15 years post-port concession.

”Port workers’ welfare has been enhanced significantly and they are now among the best paid workers in the country.

“We have since addressed the chaos inside the port but those who profit at the expense of Nigerians have moved the chaos to the roads. Unfortunately, we have no control over the roads,” he said.