Against the backdrop of the unbearable gridlock along the Apapa and Tin Can port access roads which has been made worse by the ongoing road rehabilitation work, operators in the maritime sector have urged the Federal Government to shut down the Apapa port completely and allow the road repairs to be carried out without interruption from vehicular traffic.
Some operators had earlier suggested that cargoes should be diverted to other ports in Nigeria but the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Ms. Hadiza Usman, said that it was not in the hands of government to relocate cargoes but it was importers that would decide where vessels carrying their cargoes should berth.
The Chairman, International Freight Forwarders Association, PTML Chapter, Sunny Nnebe, said that while it might not be in the hands of government to divert cargoes to other ports, the government however had the power to close the port and restrict access.
He advised the government to take this action, adding that it would enable the road rehabilitation to go on unhindered.
He said, “If the government shuts down the port completely, importers will know that the port cannot be accessed and they have no option than to move to other ports.
“There are ports in Rivers State; at Onne, ships can berth comfortably. The government should close down the (Apapa) port because the work cannot go on smoothly as long as there are tankers and trucks moving up and down the entire area and disrupting the work.”
Nnebe also suggested that the government should relocate the tank farms, stressing that the action would lessen the volume of vehicular traffic into Apapa since most of the vehicles entering Apapa were tankers going to take delivery of petroleum products.
The Coordinator of the Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr. Osita Chukwu, supported the closure of the Apapa port.
He claimed that importers spent over N5bn every month because of the traffic situation in the area.
“If one uses $10,000 to import goods only to spend $20,000 in getting the goods out of the port, that is a loss,” he said, adding that importers were willing to move their cargoes to any other port as long as government makes that port conducive.
Chukwu said, “We spend five hours going into and out of Apapa everyday. Many containers are involved in offshore business; the vessels carrying them cannot berth because the ones that berthed cannot leave. Some containers had been cleared by Customs after complete examination was carried out on them but these containers have been unable to get out of the port. Some containers sit on top of trucks for days in an attempt to get into the port.
“The government can shut down the port. There are other ports outside Lagos and bonded terminals that are scattered all over the country with their own excise offices. Let the government close down the port so that the road repairs can be done once and for all.”
He doubted the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi’s pronouncement that the Apapa gridlock would end in December, adding that it was not possible as long as the port remained open for business.
An importer, Edy Akwaeze, equally joined the call for the closure of the port and the relocation of tank farms from Apapa.
“Let them take the tank farms out of Apapa to Badagry border. The ports should be closed and the containers should be relocated to Kano or Abeokuta where there are bonded terminals lying idle. They can make use of these terminals while they work on the roads,” he said.