Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi

Francis Ezem

Worried by the worsening cargo and vessel congestion in Nigeria’s two biggest seaports, the Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex, both located in Apapa, SIFAX Group has commenced the process that would culminate in the expansion of its operations to ease pressure.

This is sequel to the acquisition of a new facility that would enable it establish more off-dock terminals, designed to reduce pressure from the conventional port terminals and thus reduce the perennial congestion that has rocked the port terminals in the last six months or more.

Executive Vice Chairman of the Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, who spoke during a recent visit by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman to the terminal of Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, the flagship company of SIFAX Group, disclosed that the company has concluded plans to expand its operations following the acquisition of new facilities for another off-dock terminal.

He also told the visiting Managing Director that the Group would require the dredging of some channels to pave way for barges and even smaller vessels to stem cargo at the new off-dock facility, which would in no small measure, relieve the existing terminal backlog of consignments, which cause congestion.

“I want to use this opportunity of your visit to our terminal to intimate you of SIFAX Group’s plan to expand its operations especially with the acquisition of new facility that will serve as an off dock terminal that would further help in decongesting the ports

“Let me also inform you that we have acquired a new property that will be used as the off dock and we will require the assistance of the NPA in conjunction with the Lagos Channel Management in dredging the waters to allow for barges and even smaller ships to berth at this terminal”, Afolabi also said.

The MD had in response, pledged the agency’s support towards resolving some of the challenges being experienced by SIFAX Group due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Usman noted that the agency is collating the challenges of all terminal operators and will pass them to the appropriate agencies for proper actions. She hinted that the government was committed to having smooth operations at the port during this period in other to keep the economy running.

“I want to assure you that we will continue to support the operations of SIFAX Group and other port operators around the country. Any assistance required from the agency should be put into writing and forwarded to my office, this is because I read all letters addressed to me and I will make sure that proper action is taken on the requests”, she said.

Managing Director of the SIFAX Group, Adekunle Oyinloye in a welcome address, noted that the operations at the terminal have been faced with daunting challenges since the lockdown.

He said: “We have encountered a lot of challenges including the harassment and detention of our staff by security agencies despite presenting their ID cards and the cover letter from NPA and bank closure at the ports, among others. We will need your assistance to address these obstacles to our operations. 

“Also, in order to avoid congestion at the ports, we have stemmed some of our containers to our off dock facilities.”

Meanwhile, Managing Director of Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited John Jenkins, while speaking at the occasion, noted that the agency should as a matter of urgency sensitise security agencies on port operations, prevail on them to allow more trucks from outside Lagos access the ports and make public transport available for port workers.