Five out of six seaports in the country lack access to rail connectivity for evacuation of cargoes to the hinterland, LEADERSHIP investigation has shown.
The seaports in Nigeria are the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa,Tin Can Island Port Complex, Onne Port Complex, Calabar Port Complex, Delta Port and Warri port.
But, of all the six seaports, only the Lagos Port complex, Apapa is connected by rail for cargo evacuation to the hinterland while others have no rail connection.
However, experts have argued that lack of rail connectivity has contributed to the congestion experienced at the seaports at Lagos as 95 per cent of cargoes are evacuated by roads with two per cent by badge and paltry three per cent by rail.
These experts are of the opinion that the horrifying traffic gridlock plaguing the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports complex in Lagos would have been under control if the seaports were connected to the hinterland.
The gridlock has negatively impacted on port operations and made importers and exporters incur huge overhead costs and contributed to increase in pieces of goods.
However, lack of rail connectivity is against seaports of developed countries that have seamless movement of cargoes out of the seaports to the hinterland.
For instance, the the management of the port of Antwerp said there were plans to reduce evacuation of cargoes by road by 15 per cent by boosting its rail and inland waterways connectivity and movement of cargoes to hinterland.
Shipping experts have also argued that the ports need railway to be efficient because interconnectivity would improve the country’s economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
However, the Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), said the current road infrastructure in the country cannot guarantee heavy traffic of cargoes coming out of the seaports across the country.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, the president of the association, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, said despite Lagos port complex, Apapa being the only port connected by rail in the country, the infrastructure of the rail has became obsolete.
“The Lagos port as i know it before was connected by the rail system and the railway was very effective it was like the government for reasons best known to them abandoned it and the infrastructure became obsolete and it became unworkable until recently when government decided to salvage it.
“The only place we have no rail system was the Tin Can port. it was designed in a way that the rail system didn’t get to the place but if we look at the old structure we will see the rail line entering the Apapa port so it showed that then it was functional.
“The road structure cannot guarantee the heavy traffic of cargoes coming out of the port. our infrastructural facilities.”
Explaining the importance of having a functional rail connectivity, Nicol said it would help in movement of cargoes to the hinterland at a reduced price.
“Those people who have cargoes at the hinterland, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt would have been cheaper to move goods from Apapa port to the north and the goods protected unless their is accident which is very unlikely but all of that is gone and since government is trying to bring it back, i know it will help because rail system is something that is very reliable.”
Nicol said shippers would be ready to patronise a functional rail system because it would reduce cost of moving goods into the hinterland.
“We aren’t saying don’t do it, we will patronise them because it allowed our goods to arrive safely and everyone is looking at where doing business will be minimal so that we can make some good profit.”
Also speaking, the vice president, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, said the Lagos Port is likely to witness a shutdown of activities if a veritable means of evacuating cargoes from the port was not provided.
According to him, the bad roads and lack of intermodal system especially rail to move cargoes out of the seaport was affecting the efficiency of Nigerian ports.
“We don’t need a soothsayer to tell us we may likely witness congestion vis a vis what is on ground that we have bad roads. Very few cargoes are leaving the ports while the volume of container import is increasing daily and the volume of delivery is decreasing on a daily basis.
“We don’t have good roads and we rely solely on road, Nigeria lacks intermodal transport system which is what is driving other maritime country in the whole world and we lack it and since Nigeria lacks vision for its maritime industry,” he lamented.
Farinto also bemoaned lack of vision for development of Nigerian maritime industry compare to other maritime nations.
“Nigeria as a country don’t have vision for the maritime industry also, we lack intermodal system which is the bane of the development of our port and we are likely to have congestion and total collapses of the industry in the nest three months if things continue the way they are,” he added.
When contacted, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) confirmed that only the Lagos Port Complex has a functional railway connectivity for movement of cargoes to the hinterland.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the public relations officer of the corporation, Mahmud Yakub , said Onne and Lagos seaports were the only port connected by rail in the country.
He stated, “We have so many seaports connected by railway line but the one that is very very active is the Apapa port. Though, Baro is connected, Onne is active but the problem is that importers for reasons best known to them divert their cargoes to Lagos port.
“It is not only Apapa port that is connected. Onne in Port Harcourt, Baro in Niger State are connected. these are all seaports that people don’t know about and they are connected by rail. When you check our website, all these things are there, you will see where we are connected by rail and where we are not.”
When asked whether the manufacturers were not aware that moving by rails was cheaper than roads, Yakubu disagreed saying, “Common sense will tell you that moving by rail is cheaper than by road. it is a simple calculation. We cannot force manufacturers to give us their goods because they have their right either to use roads or use rail because there is no law that says they must convey certain goods by rail but when you come to our headquarters, you will see what we are doing to decongest the port, come and see the number of containers we are moving from Apapa port to our yards everyday,” he boasted.
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