By Ray Ugochukwu
Participants at the recently held Maritime Summit on Apapa traffic gridlock took shipping companies and terminal operators to the cleaners for deliberately absenting themselves from the event.
They pointedly accused shipping firms and the concessionaires of being the major cause of the gridlock that has made Lagos ports a pariah in the shipping world.
They noted that the shipping firms have failed to provide holding bays for their empty containers thereby compelling trucks carrying such boxes to remain on the highways perennially.
In fact, a vocal participant, Chief Boniface Okoye, Chairman/CEO of Bonntex Nigeria Limited, summed up the claims of the companies of having holding facilities as ‘fraudulent’.
In his words, “Shipping companies, where are your holding bays? They are in the computer. All their holding bays are only seen in the computers and not on ground”.
The forum commended the Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) and its mouth piece, THE POWERFUL PEN, for their consistency in bringing to the front burner the Apapa gridlock. It urged them not to relent in the course they had chosen for themselves, even in the face of frustration and opposition.
Participants expressed worries that 15 years after the flag-off of the country’s port concession, Nigerian ports were still not business-friendly, lacked trading predictability, remained non-competitive, non-transparent and neither efficient.
They also expressed disappointment that after several seminars, workshops and conferences on the same traffic gridlock, with recommendations thereof, atimes culminating in one Government intervention or the other, the situation persisted.
The Maritime Summit was held on Wednesday 14th April 2021 at the Rockview Hotel, Apapa, Lagos with the theme: “Apapa Perennial Traffic Gridlock: Has it Defied All Solutions?”
The Summit was attended by delegates from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Wharf Landing Collecting Fees Authority, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). Others were National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), National Council of Managing Directors Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Sikkens Paints, businessmen, industrialists and individuals.
Papers were presented by resource persons drawn from various fields transportation and port operations, who traced the genesis of the crisis, its economic and health consequences and proffered the way forward.
Most of the resource persons denounced the hurried process of the port reform by the Federal Government without Environmental Impact Assessment and the alienation of a key stakeholder like the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in the processes leading to the concession.
The collapse of petroleum refineries and vandalism of distribution pipelines and the subsequent establishment of oil depots in Ibafo axis of Tin Can Island Port was identified as one of the things that resulted in increase in the volume of vehicular traffic, among others.
The forum lamented the excessive rise in costs of cargo clearance/delivery, which it noted, had ignited serious inflation in the country.
The Summit therefore recommended, among other things, that the Federal Government should re-evaluate and re-jig the port reform taking into account the role of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the Economic Regulator, that terminal operators must improve on their cargo handling equipment and delivery systems to enhance quick turnaround of vessels and trucks.