With the commissioning of the standard gauge railway by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, Apapa port is inching closer to achieving Intermodalism.
Experts have argued that with the launch of railway service, the Maritime industry would save the N140 billion weekly economic losses and another $10 billion import/export products wasted annually to the stifling traffic.
Recall that intermodalism is a method that involves several different modes of transporting cargoes to acheive higher efficiency.
The Apapa port is re-connected by rail, road and skeletal barging activities eventhough stakeholders have called for the regulation due to accidents and unruly activities of barge operators.
However, with the new rail line which covers about 157 km with an extension of about 7km to Apapa Port, with a design speed of 150 km per hour, the Apapa port which solely relied on trucking as a means of evacuating cargoes from the port can now use the rail mode.
Presently, the perennial gridlock has taken a huge toll on importers and manufacturers as they groan daily under the burden of extreme congestion at the ports.
Millions of cargoes are trapped and the situation contributes significantly to Nigeria’s galloping inflation, as consumers now have to pay more for goods.
The situation has however continued to threaten importers and exporters’ businesses but, launching of the Lagos – Ibadan railway by the president has shown a glimpse of end in sight for the congestion at the port.
However, maritime stakeholders have called on the federal government to create awareness on return of rail to the port as well as give incentives for early users of the train service.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the President, Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS), Rev. Jonathan Nicol said he believed the reintroduction of rail line inside the port would help reduce the gridlock on the port access road.
Nicol, however, urged the transportation Ministry to create build an Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Ikeja or Agege axis for use by manufacturers along the corridor.
According to him, the ICD will service manufacturers at the industrial estate as well as reduce traffic on the Apapa port corridor.
He said, “Now that we have train service restored to the Apapa port, we believed cargo cleared at the port should be moved to hinyer land through the rail unhindered. However, we think there should be an ICD at Agege or Ikeja. When we have container depots at that axis, factories around the axis can move their cargoes from the ICD to their respective factories as they won’t need to come down to Apapa port where they will add to the gridlock.
Nicol however expressed maintenance fear saying culture of maintenance in Nigeria is always poor.
He said, “Now that we have a functional rail line, another thing is sustainability and maintenance which is a great concern to us and should be a concern to the government,” he said.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP, the National Vice -President, Association of Nigerian Liscenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto said eventhough the traffic won’t dissappear overnight, government should sensitise stakeholders on benefits of the rail.
He said, “Traffic won’t reduce un the first instance but, government should sensitise as well as give discounts and incentive for early users. Importers should know that import and export and export can be taken into the Apapa port.”