Nigeria’s port congestion worsens as vessels’ waiting time hits 50 days

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LIANYUNGANG, April 14, 2020-- Photo taken on April 14, 2020 shows containers at the Lianyungang Port in Lianyungang City, east China's Jiangsu Province. China's foreign trade showed signs of stabilizing in March with export and import both beating bearish market expectations, official data showed Tuesday. (Photo by Geng Yuhe/Xinhua via Getty)

Steve Agbota, styvenchy@yahoo.com

Presently, there is massive congestion at the various ports as vessels conveying cargoes to the nation’s seaports are now compelled to wait at the anchorage for 50 days before accessing the ports to discharge laden containers.

Already, there was concerned over 800 export containers now abandoned at Apapa port without access into the terminals due to port congestion. As result of this, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) ensured that the evacuation of cargoes by rail resumes in Apapa.

Executive Secretary of the Council, Hassan Bello, while speaking with journalists at the port this week, lamented that many importers have abandoned their containers inside the port, and it has made it difficult for ships to berth with new imports.

Going forward, he said only export containers would be allowed to visit the port by road, while all imported cargoes would now be evacuated by barges and rail in order to decongest the port.

Bello, who was represented by the Director of Regulatory Services, Mrs Ifeoma Ezedinma, said the council recently facilitated the signing of a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) between the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and APM Terminals on how the ports can be decongested through the rail system.

He said the ultimate aim of the Council is to ensure that imported containers are evacuated by barges and rail, while export containers trapped at port gates can have access to come into the terminals.

“The Shippers Council is to monitor the process of the SOP to make sure that it is efficient and it is sustained. This would decongest our roads because we would now have multimodal access to the port, and exit through the barges and rail.

“Eventually, only export cargoes would be mandated to come in through the roads, with the waterways and road evacuation, the roads would be decongested. This is what we are working on as desirable by all parties. Eventually, the cost would be reduced because the economics of demand and supply would come into play,” he added. Henceforth, he warned that whoever causes any delay in the evacuation process would pay for it because NSC is monitoring the process.

He said: “The Council recently got increased complaints that export cargoes can not access the port, vessels are now waiting 50 days to discharge cargoes because the terminals are completely full. The owners of imports are not taking out their cargoes, so there is no way for the exports to gain access to the terminals.

“Right now, we are not supposed to have containers stacked inside the port, the port is not a warehouse, most of the owners of these containers are reluctant to take delivery because they dont have the market for their cargoes, and they feel it is safer and cheaper being inside the port.”

During the lockdown, he said a lot of warehouses were locked down. So they would rather leave their containers at the port. The ripples effect is that the vessels are paying to seat at anchorage before they can berth, adding that 50 days is a lot of money, but then, guess who pays at the end of the day? The final consumers.

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