From left:

Mrs Funke Agbo SAN, a Maritime lawyer, Mr. Bola Asiru Director, Strategy and Operation, Deloitte, West Africa, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Mrs. Margaret Oraekwusi former president of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association and chairman of the event and Mr. Wilson Inam, a maritime lawyer shortly after the second edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at the University of Lagos at the weekend.

Port concessionaires under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Association of Nigeria STOAN, has made a strong case for the conversion of the Lily Pond Container Terminal Ijora to a truck park as part of the lasting solutions to the perennial gridlock that characterise most of the access roads to the ports in Apapa.

The Lily Pond Container Terminal also called the Tin Can Island Port Extension is currently under concession arrangements between one of the subsidiaries of APM Terminal Apapa and the Federal Government as represented by the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA.

Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, who spoke at the send edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference, organised by the Maritime Forum of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, which held at the weekend, observed that before the concession programme in 2006, the terminal was used as a truck terminal with a capacity to accommodate over 7,000 trucks at a time.

According to her, apart from the very poor state of the port access roads in Apapa, the total absence of a truck holding bay was a major cause of the chaotic traffic situation in the area, a development that has negatively affected efficient port operation.

While admitting that the terminal is currently concessioned to one of the subsidiaries of APM Terminal Apapa, she insisted that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, convert the terminal to a truck holding bay to address the chaotic traffic situation at the port locations in Lagos, which she described as an aberration.

She also expressed surprise at the decision of the Federal Government to abandon the port industry despite its strategic importance to the nation’s economy in terms of being the only source of shipping its crude oil and other import and export cargo as well as the huge revenue that accrues to it from the industry.

“There is huge revenue accruing to the government from the port industry. I was stunned recently at the amount of revenue generated by one of the commands of the Nigeria Customs Service, which runs into several billions for only six months and yet the same government does not want to pay attention to such an industry”

“The Federal Government should change its current state of mind and focus on developing and harnessing the potential of the maritime industry because I am sure the government will even make more money if it converts the Lily Pond Terminal to a truck park”, she argued.

She regretted that government’s neglect of the maritime industry led to the licensing of over 26 petroleum product tank farms in a port area, which already has in excess of 123 private jetties without considering the possible effect on the road infrastructure, which remain the only means of moving goods in and out of the seaports, given the total absence of other transport modes, especially the rail.

Haastrup, who doubles as the Executive Vice Chairman of the ENL Consortium, the concessionaire in charge of terminal C and D of the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa said that the terminal operators have done their best, especially in terms of making massive investments to develop the terminals and acquire modern plants and equipment to aid efficient port operation.

She said that these investments, which significantly transformed the port terminals, have also brought about a high level of efficiency to ports, as turnaround time of ships, which was in excess of six weeks, has reduced to less than five days while cargo dwell time has also reduced tremendously.

She said: “We have done our part, the government should also do its beat so that the ports will take their pride of place among their peers both in Africa and across the maritime global. The ports need expansion but we cannot because of mistakes associated with the location of the ports, which are now surrounded with residential areas so the government has a lot to do”.

She also took a swipe at the shipping companies, which have failed to provide truck holding bays for trucks bearing their empty containers, regretting that most of such blames are heaped on the terminal operators.

“We the terminal operators have done so much, yet we are not appreciated, we are called various names, blamed for the high cost of doing business at the ports whereas only 1.8 per cent of the total cost component comes to the terminal operators. It is not our duty to provide truck terminals, it is those of the shipping companies”, she said passionately.