By YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
As traffic gridlock on the access road to the nation’s busiest ports, Lagos Port Complex and Tin-Can Ports in Apapa, Lagos, become more deplorable, shippers have lamented the difficulty they face in clearing their cargoes out of the ports.
According to them, demurrages charges on their goods have hit N6.7billion in 10 days.
A recent report by Deloitte had indicated that shippers pay N668, 493, 150 daily as demurrages to shipping companies and terminal operators anytime their cargoes remain trapped at the Lagos ports.
The demurrages are payable by Importers and Shippers to terminal operators and shipping companies due to the slow pace of evacuation of containers from the seaport as a result of the dilapidated ports access roads leading to the two busiest seaports in Nigeria that has affected port operations.
LEADERSHIP findings revealed that shippers pay more on freight charges to move cargoes from the seaports to warehouses or importers’ factory as a result of the deplorable situation of the road.
Speaking on the Apapa port access road gridlock, a former commissioner for Transportation, Lagos State, Prof. Bamidele Badejo said the perennial gridlock experienced in Apapa has heightened inflation in the nation’s economy.
Prof. Badejo said, “The traffic has ripple effect on the economy as it brought about additional inflation because a container that takes about N85,000 to lift now goes for about N180,000 because of the cost implications of having to wait for hours.
“If we identify the real cost implications we will know the effect of not taking drastic measures at addressing this quagmire on the economy of the country”.
Corroborating Prof. Badejo, the President, Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol told LEADERSHIP that demurrages accrued by importers and Shippers due to the bad state of the ports’ access roads will be transferred to the final consumers.
He said, “No free lunch on the table of a business man because all the cost of clearing will be tabled and will be transferred to different cargoes to enable the importer retrieve his money and also make his gain.
“When there is no free lunch from terminal operators and shipping companies so why do you think there will be free lunch from importers and Shippers? Customs duty is high, terminal operators fee is high even Transportation is high, nothing is free so at the end of the day the ordinary man will buy at a higher rate and you don’t blame the importers and I think that is why it’s easier to buy smuggled goods than one cleared from authorised ports in our country. It is a shame”.
When asked whether importers can engage terminal operators in other to negotiate the demurrages accrued during the period, Nicol said only the federal government can ask terminal operators and shipping companies not to charge demurrage.
He continued: ”The waiver will come only from NPA because terminal operators are under NPA and whether to waive or not NPA will want their charges to be paid. So, if NPA should say for the period we will repair the road don’t charge demurage I don’t think they will charge.
“Terminal operators are here to do business whether the road is good or bad besides they are not the cause. So, it’s the government which is the NPA that will say our suppliers are suffering and until we repair don’t charge demurrage and we know the supply from the port is low with lot of risk. Importers place container on a road they can’t guarantee because the roads are too bad.
“Since the traffic started, we have been paying huge demurage because their is nothing we can do and when we complain to Terminal operators they tell us they don’t create the bad roads. Demurrage are their accruing on daily basis and their is noting the shippers can do”.
Also speaking, the President of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu, said the traffic gridlock on the access road has led to accumulation of demurrage and lost of container deposits to shipping companies.
He said, “If the containers you are taking are stocked in traffic and all the deposit are swallowed and the suffering of the importers will rub on the consumer. That is part of the problem. The roads are not facilitating trade and as long as the road remained un-repaired it is Nigerians that will suffer it”.
When asked whether clearing agents would be forced to Shutdown the ports once again to draw government attention, Shittu opined that shutting down ports operations is attractive but not the solution to the challenges.
“It is attractive to shut the port but it’s only the importer that will suffer. The last one we did terminal operators refused to waive the rent and the importers are forced to bear the brunt when we all pass through the roads”, he stated.
He said even though the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had intention seeing a better port operations but she lacks the bureaucratic Authority to get things done.
“The woman has good intention but she did not have the bureaucratic Authority. Do you see the minister of Transportation saying anything about the road? That is someone who belongs to the inner caucus of the President with former governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola they should put head together to do the road because abandoning the road can either be criminal negligence or criminal omissions”, he added.
But a visit to the Apapa and Tin-Can seaports by our correspondent showed that the two axis of the access roads were blocked, making it difficult for vehicular movement in and out of the ports.
The gridlock on both sides were caused by potholes on the roads and heavy downpour that makes passage impossible for trucks.
A huge ditch filled with water. was at the Coconut end of Oshodi-Apapa making it difficult for trucks to access an exit the the port. Also, barrack junction from ijora is also dilapidated with water eroding the asphalt thereby creating a big ditch that made the roads impassable for truck drivers accessing the ports from Western Avenue.
However, there are fear that if the traffic are not addressed in due time, it may lead to congestion as containers that are cleared and supposed to be taken away from seaports are trapped due to the state of the roads.
Congestion at the port will lead to increased ship waiting time at the container terminals, increase in Vessel turnaround time from 4 hours to five days and increase of dwell time for cargoes from just 14 days to 30 days.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the Executive Secretary of the association, Mr Aloga Ogbogo, urged tank farms and shipping companies operating around Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports should provide truck holding bay for articulated vehicles.
Ogbogo said tankers and truck drivers have turned the road to a permanent holding bay.
He said, “The process for the reconstruction is long overdue and we believe since its private sector driven, it’s going to see the light of the day. It’s going to be a sort of relief and succour for truck owners.”
The association boss also described lack of maintenance culture had contributed to the dilapidated and present bad state of the road.
His words: “What happened to Apapa road was because we lack maintenance culture in Nigeria. What happened today what has been happening year in year out. If we have maintenance culture we would have said as rain is about to start falling let being to do some sort of palliative measures also, the roads is subjected to lot of pressure because you see tankers and trailers parking on the road.
“The road is supposed to be a for traffic and not to be status and this is caused by absence of truck holding bays. We have about 62 tank farms in Apapa and one of them have the capacity to load over 100 trucks per day if we multiply that, it will be over 6200 tankers on the road.
“Also, there is a rule that the department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) should not approve a tank farm without a holding bay. The shipping companies should also have a holding bay where containers will be offloaded before they are transferred to terminals. This will also help to reduce traffic in the road”.