Cargo diversion looms as vessels avoid Nigerian ports over …

•As  stakeholders blame FG over neglect of $91trn sector

By Steve Agbota, [email protected][1]

The management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), recently raised the alarm that the Tin-Can Island and the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, are on the verge of collapse if they are not rehabilitated as soon as possible.

The Managing Director of the NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, disclosed this during a recent television, monitored by Daily Sun. At the interview the NPA boss warned that the Port of Tin-Can was collapsing, saying that if nothing was done in the coming years some calamitous developmnts may befall the ports in no distant time

However, some maritime stakeholders who spoke with Daily said that vessels have since began avoiding the nation’s ports over the collapse of quay aprons and other infrastructure decayed across the ports.

They revealed that the number of vessels that  berthed in the first quarter of 2023 are relatively lower compared to the first of quarter of last year. This has resulted to low volume of import into Nigeria.

The stakeholders said once your quays apron are weak and cannot take vessels, definitely ships will reject to come to your ports. This will virtually lead to diversion of Nigeria bound cargo to other West African countries where their quay aprons can take vessels without fears.

Quay apron is the area in front of a wharf shed on which cargo is lifted to the terminal or where vessels are loaded and unloaded.

Investigations revealed that Tincan Island Port, which was built in 1977, has not experienced major rehabilitation or maintenance on their quay aprons. The most affected quay aprons are the Five Star Logistics Terminal, Josepdam Port Services Limited and Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT).

Investigations also revealed that two portions of the quay apron at the Five Star Logistics Terminal have caved in with the sand-fill washing down into the lagoon from one of the collapsed portions, while a portion of the quay apron at Josepdam has also caved in.

Conversely, at TICT, the quay could no longer stand the pressures despite partial repairs and subsequent collapse.

Meanwhile, stakeholders blamed Federal Government for neglecting the nation’s maritime sector that worth $91 trillion to be wasting away without taking cognizance actions to fix the collapse of infrastructure at the ports.

Speaking with Daily Sun, a port user, Mr. Isaac Nnamdi said that since 2020, NPA has been raising the alarm over the collapsed of the quay aprons at the nation’s ports, saying three years down the lane, Federal Government has not deemed it fit to fix these infrastructures.

“I’m still wondering why Government is still paying lip  service to the nation’s maritime sector. I can’t figure out the reason. My brother, this is the sector that services every other sectors of the economy. The industry is worth $91 trillion and has capacity to service the debt borrowed Federal Government from China.

“The infrastructures are left to be decayed and most of these infrastructures are not witnessed any major transition for years. But our government is busy channeling resources to other areas and forget where they are generating the funds,” he said.

According to him, the present condition of the quay aprons at the nation’s ports posed serious danger for incoming vessels, saying that something must be done fast to fix them because they expose ships coming into the country to danger.

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“The danger of this situation is that If our quay aprons are not strong enough to take vessels, they will reject going to our port because people we say your ports are not safe for vessels to berth. If this happens, it means your cargo will be diverted to neighbouring ports and the implications of this is that it will spike increase in freight rates.

“If ships refuse coming to our ports because of infrastructure decay, no doubt, it may raise  additional premium for vessels to come to our ports because of the risk they are taking to come. However, the cost of delivering cargo might soar higher if they have to bring their vessels to deliver cargoes at the collapsing quay side,” he said.

He said if authorities continue to issue political statement on the pages of newspapers without taking action to fix these things, it portends dangers for Nigerian economy because vessels will refuse to come into the nation’s ports.

Meanwhile, Port operators under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) have said that the quay aprons in Apapa and Tin-Can ports are already giving way. The operators said that the Perimeter Fencing at Tin-Can ports and the access road into Onne Port is also nearing collapse.

An economist and founding Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf said that Lagos ports account for over 80 per cent of maritime cargoes in Nigeria, adding that it is therefore troubling that such critical infrastructures are now at the risk of collapse. “The quay aprons (the loading and offloading infrastructures) of both Tincan and Apapa ports are structurally on the brink.  The  Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority  has severally expressed concern on the state of these facilities.

We should not wait until the risk crystallizes before something is done.

“The current state of the ports infrastructures poses a major risk to trade, freight costs,  customs revenue,  risk of job losses in the maritime sector and general economic competitiveness of our country. “It goes without saying that these ports are long overdue for major maintenance.  Apapa port was constructed in 1921 (102 years ago)] while Tincan port was constructed in 1977 (46 years ago). Yet the volume of cargo traffic at these ports has risen several folds since construction. CPPE appeals to government to urgently fix the infrastructures shortcomings at these ports,” he said.

Speaking recently in Lagos, STOAN Spokesman, Mr. Bolaji Akinola lamented that the collection of all revenue generated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) into the Federation coffers is majorly the reason why these port facilities have not been repaired. “Onne Port, which is a greenfield port is suffering. The major link road that feeds the port, the East-West Road is dilapidated. The Federal Government is supposed to have fixed that road for a very long time now, but that has not happened.

“You know that the Onne Port is in an industrial area which is also in a Free Trade Zone. The port needs a very good access road to aid seamless movement of cargoes out of the port, but that has not been the case. The port is suffering because the East-West road is becoming an eyesore.

“Here in Apapa and Tin-Can ports, the quay aprons are giving way. Tin-can ports is over 40 years old. How do you expect to keep putting heavy weight equipment on this quay aprons for over 40 years without putting anything back in them to re-enforce them?

“Another things need to be fixed is the perimeter fencing at Tin-Can port, which is also giving way. NPA would ordinarily have done these things but the fact that all revenue generated goes straight into the Federation account is an issue. The agency cannot repair these port amenities because every kobo, once generated, is paid into the federation coffers, leaving the agency with barely nothing.”

However, the NPA helmsman said that to reconstruct the collapsed quay apron at the Tin-Can Island Port would required urgent attention by the government.

According to him, also, Escravos, Calabar and Onne Ports are in need of significant rehabilitation alongside Tin-Can to the tune of $800 million. He said for the port of Tin-Can, it is not an imminent collapse, but in the next few years, if nothing is done, there will be problems.

“We have been managing Tin-Can and doing palliatives and other jobs for some.time now, but it is time we rehabilitate it completely. We also need to rehabilitate some parts of Apapa,” he added.

Bello-Koko added that the Tin-Can rehabilitation needs to also be done alongside ports in the Niger Delta region from Escravos to Calabar, adding that total costs could rise to $800million.

“We need to reconstruct the ‘breakwaters’ in Escarvos. It has collapsed for over ten years, and there is a collapsed jetty in Calabar, Warri, Rivers and Onne. There is no port that does not need reconstruction of some of its facilities. Our estimates are between $560 to $800 million,” he said.



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