The poor state of things at Nigerian ports

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February 21, 2019

Things at Nigeria’s seaports are not looking too good. According to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), of the country’s six seaports, only the Lagos Ports are operating at ‘full’ capacity. Nigeria’s six seaports include Apapa and Tin Can, both of which are situated in Lagos, a Warri Port, one in Calabar, as well as the Onne and Port-Harcourt ports in Rivers State.

Reportedly, a visit to many of these ports will reveal a surprisingly low level of activity, which has consequently resulted in congestion. The ports bearing the brunt of the congestions are the Apapa and Tin-Can ports but it is unclear why the problem has been left to deteriorate. Many have blamed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) system while port landlords have also assigned blame on various shipping companies and terminal operators.

At the Lagos port complex, more than two million containers laden with various cargoes worth over N5 trillion are currently stranded at the Lagos port, largely because importers have no way of evacuating their cargo. As a result, the cargo in question is now incurring demurrage charges that continue to accumulate due to the blockade.

When did issues at Nigerian ports start?

The Nigerian ports congestion problem has been unending since the start of October 2018. The biggest problem has been experienced in Lagos in the Apapa and Tin Can ports, which has not only led to containers being held in the port for months on end, but has also caused endless truck traffic that extends for miles from the port gates.

The issue has been further worsened by overall mismanagement and the sorry state of the roads; and the recent protests by trucks drivers around the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Ports hasn’t shaped the situation either.

So far, The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman has called on all stakeholders, port managers, terminal operators, and interested parties to work together so that the current congestion at Nigeria’s seaports can be eradicated.

The Managing Director has also suggested the wavering of demurrage charges for a specified time, as well as an increase in free days of storage to mitigate the disaster. The NPA is also undertaking efforts to encourage shipping companies to support other Ports outside Lagos, such as the Onne Port.

How has the congestion at Nigerian ports affected things?

Aside from the outcry by port workers and business organizations alike, the port congestion has also led to an increase of operational costs by ocean carriers, which has generated severe service disruptions that have lasted since the issue first started in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Examples of carriers that have announced a peak season surcharge due to the port congestion include Maersk, CMA and MSC, with each carrier in desperate search for a solution to the problem.

For businesses that are dependent on imports, the cost of the enduring congestion is likely costing millions of dollars, which has also reflected in the cost of shipping goods to Nigeria. Nigeria’s not so little port problem has also affected the economy severely; although Nigeria has a vast import rich economy, the country is no longer home to the leading container port in Africa.

This title, now belongs to Togo, which owing to continued support from the Togo government, has increased reforms in the sector. So far,  container traffic at the port of Lome has grown more than three-fold since 2013, which is a staggering contrast to how things currently stand at Nigeria largest port in Agapa.


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