Executive Vice Chairman of the SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi

Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, a subsidiary of SIFAX Group and operators of Terminal C of the Tin Can Island Ports Complex, Lagos, has projected to handle not less than 29, 000 Twenty Equivalent Units TEUs of cargo for 2019, saying the economic environment around the port industry in Nigeria has not been clement.

SIFAX is a well-diversified group of companies with investments in maritime, aviation, oil and gas, haulage and logistics, financial services and hospitality industries.

Group Managing Director of the SIFAX, Adekunle Ogunloye, who briefed newsmen in Lagos, Tuesday on the half-year operational activities of the group for the period covering January-June, 2019, said the company handled a total of 130, TEUs of cargo for the first six months of 2019. This represents a shortfall of 275 TEUs when compared with the 130, 275 TEUs recorded in the comparative period of 2018.

The GMD blamed this shortfall on several factors including the general global economic downturn that has negatively affected trade volumes, the effects of the electioneering processes in Nigeria, which slowed down businesses in the first half of the year and the harsh operating conditions around the nation’s port systems.

The company also handled a total of 100, 000 TEUs of general cargo during the year under review while over 400 TEUs of laden export products are handled at the terminal on a weekly basis. Other details showed that the company handles between 300-400 TEUs of empty containers every week.

On the issue of congestion at the ports, he said that the greatest challenge facing the company in terms of efficient management of cargo and the yard remains the worsening traffic situation on the port access roads, which makes it a herculean task for cargo to leave or enter the port terminals.

“There is congestion. A vessel discharges containers and the cargo cannot go out of the ports because of the gridlock and another vessel berths, the yard will be definitely overwhelmed. In the midst of that, there is three-day strike by workers, this situation will obviously not make for the free flow of cargo”, the GMD lamented.

It was also gathered that due to the gridlock on port access roads, vessels cannot wait to collect empty containers since it takes the trucks bearing the empties weeks and days to arrive at the terminal, a development that may make the shipping line incur additional cost if it decides to delay the vessel, which has already been programmed for a specified number of days for any voyage.

Ogunloye however assured that despite these challenges, the company will remain focused on the projections on its growth trajectory, insisting that the coming months will be far better than the past ones, especially given the various interventions of the Federal Government, which have helped to return a little bit of sanity to the access roads with the coming of the Presidential Taskforce on Apapa gridlock.

In terms of volumes, he also said that the company was sure of surpassing its 290, 000 TEUs projections, given that there is traditionally lull in the first half of the year, which picks up towards the third quarter and them experiences boom during the last quarter due to year end activities.

While speaking on the contributions of the Group to Nigeria’s economy, the GMD insisted that the group in addition to paying taxes, which runs into hundreds of millions of naira, it has scores of people in its employ, who in turn cater for their dependents, which impacts Nigeria’s economy positively both directly and indirectly.

“We are happy contributing our quota to the growth and development of Nigeria’s economy; we pay our taxes promptly and will continue to do that. We are also willing to partner and support the Federal Government in its efforts to enhance activities in the port industry and revamp the nation’s economy”, the GMD also pledged.