Princess Vicky Haastrup, Chairman STOAN

Port concessionaires under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria STOAN, have lamented the negative effects of the misguided close of the Wharf Road in Apapa without proper plans for traffic control on port operations, saying it is a recipe for chaos.

Wharf Road, which connects Ijora Bridge, is the major entry and exit into the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa, which accounts for over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s container traffic has been closed for over two weeks to facilitate repair works on the ever-busy road, a development that has worsened the gridlock in the area, thus making it difficult for containers to move in and out of the ports.

Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, who spoke on the development, regretted that the relevant authorities decided to close the road without deploying traffic and security officials to manage the chaotic situation that would arise from the closure, thus making the rehabilitation work seemingly counter-productive.

She therefore urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgent national importance, deploy sufficient traffic and security officials to ensure enhancement of the free flow of traffic in Apapa while the repair works on the road last.

Haastrup said the failure of government to deploy a large number of traffic officials to ensure free flow of traffic during the closure of the Wharf Road could trigger a chaotic situation as the truck drivers would become uncontrollable, a development that would not augur well for efficient port operations.

“This is not a matter that should be treated lightly at all. While we commend the Nigerian Ports Authority and the private sector for the repair of the severely damaged Ijora-Wharf Road, we must emphasize the need to ensure free flow of traffic while the repair lasts”.

“We have noticed that anytime a section of the road is closed, everywhere is clogged. The entire port environment is paralysed.

“This rather ugly development has a negative effect on the port operations because what now happens is that trucks, which are inside the port, will not be able to come out and if they do not come out to free the space inside the various terminals, trucks on the road will not be able to go in and that is how the chaos builds”.

Princess Haastrup said the situation can be brought under control by deploying security and traffic control officials to work in shifts to ensure round the clock traffic flow.

Haastrup, who is the Executive Vice Chairman of the ENL Consortium Limited, the concessionaire in charge of berths C and D of the LPC said that such traffic control should be done 24 hours a day to ensure free flow of traffic, adding that security operatives should also be deployed to support the traffic control officers.

“If we do not ensure free flow of traffic while the road repair lasts, port congestion might be inevitable. Port congestion is certainly not what Nigeria can afford at this difficult economic times. Port congestion will result in vessel queues, which is already happening and this comes at a huge cost to the Nigerian economy,” she said.

The STOAN Chairman said there has not been any form of port congestion since 2006 when the ports were concessioned, and no effort should be spared to ensure that it does not set in at this time.

Hasstrup also said it is wrong to blame any terminal operator for the chaos on the Apapa-Wharf Road, saying terminal operators are also suffering from the effect of the perennial gridlock.

She insisted that the closure of a lane of the road is currently taking its toll on traffic flow, a development that requires effective traffic management system, adding that many terminal operators have committed enormous resources to provide palliatives on the road to bring succour to road users.

While tasking the Federal Government on the development of alternative modes of transport, such as rail and pipeline, to reduce pressure on the roads, she made a strong case for the relocation of the tank farms in Apapa, which she argued remained the long run solution to the perennial gridlock in the area.

Recall that more than two million containers laden with goods worth over N5trillion were said to have been trapped at the LPC due to the very poor state of the access roads, which might be worsened by the partial closure of the Wharf Road, a major artery in and out of the ports without any traffic management system.

Stakeholders believe that this rather ugly development makes a mess of the Federal Government’s policy of enhancing the ease of doing business in the country, especially in relation to the Executive Orders issued recently by the acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.