Stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime industry have identified use of rail mode to evacuate containers out of Tin-Can Island and Apapa port to Inland Container Depots as a panacea to reducing the traffic gridlock at Apapa area of Lagos.
This is coming against the backdrop of alleged neglect of Inland Container Depots by Terminal Operators after investing N3 trillion in the establishment of the depots in response to government invitation for private participation in establishment of ICDs outside the ports.
According to a communiqué issued at the end of a town hall meeting of the operators, the role of ICDs was not factored into the Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) signed between Terminal Operators, Bureau For Public Enterprises (BPE) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
It was agreed that the rail mode of transport should be used to evacuate containers out of the ports to locations near ICDs for onward transfer by road to the depots for Customs examination. Participants also noted that unemployment of youths could be reduced if certain percentage of imports (containers) are designated for examination at ICDs and by extension create ancillary jobs for our teeming youths.
It was observed that the Terminal Operators did not adhere to the agreement that premises of ICDs should be used as Holding Bays for empty containers which will be later moved into the designated port terminals at nights. Participants agreed that the port concessionaires should see ICDs as partners and not competitors.
The ICDs were also advised to seek redress in court over lack of patronage by the Terminal Operators that are mostly foreign owned who over the years failed to transfer some of the consignments offloaded at their terminals to the ICDs that are owned by indigenous firms to in line with local content policy of Federal government.
The participants called on the media to hold government agencies accountable for breach in contract agreement entered into between Bureau for Public Enterprises, (BPE), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Inland Container Depots.