Terminal operators under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) say they will be investing more to strengthen infrastructure within the ports in line with the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) ports modernisation plan.
The operators stated this at an interactive meeting with Gbemisola Saraki, minister of state for transportation, who was in Lagos to assess the state of infrastructure within the Tin-Can and Apapa ports.
Ascanio Russo, the representative of STOAN at the meeting, decried the level decay at the ports and urged the Federal Government to address the decay in order make the ports more competitive.
The minister had conveyed the NPA’s plan to address the ports’ infrastructure to the terminal operators, and sought their buy-in.
“One of the major challenges that terminal operators face in Lagos at the moment is the condition of the port infrastructure, especially at the Tin-Can Island port. Terminal operators have been operating in Lagos for over 15 years and have made significant investments in infrastructure, equipment, and human resources. Over time, we have really increased the level of productivity in the port,” he said.
Russo added that the terminal operators have now reached the stage to make further investment to revive the decaying infrastructure at Tin-Can Island port.
“From our side, we want to confirm that we are committed and serious investors. We are also ready to participate and invest directly in this infrastructure. We have been here for many years and we plan to be here for more years. So, we are very happy that you have identified the challenges in the area of infrastructure and we want to confirm to you that we are ready to make the necessary investment,” he said.
Russo, who is also the managing director of PTML Terminal, said operators of the affected terminals were ready to sit with the Federal Government and look at the legal and financial framework under which they can make new investments to keep the Lagos ports competitive. He said while the new port being constructed in Lekki is an opportunity for Lagos, the ports in Apapa and Tin-Can Island should not be neglected as they would still be very relevant.
On the concession renewal, he said, the issue has been a concern to STOAN members.
“We have been negotiating for some time on this matter. And it is worthy to note that this investment will require a very long time to be recovered. Our members need commitment. So, I believe that our members have the intention to continue to invest but of course, they want to finalise as soon as possible the issue of concession renewal,” he said.
Russo also cited congestion as another challenge being faced by terminal operators despite the impact of the current economic condition in Nigeria and the general crisis across the world, especially the lockdown in China, on the volume of cargoes coming to Lagos.
“What we are seeing at the moment is just an artificial normal flow of cargoes but we know that very soon, congestion is going to come back. And at the moment, there is a reduction of imported cargoes into Lagos by about 20 to 25 percent. That is huge but we know that this is just a moment and very soon, the congestion is going to affect the port,” he warned.
He, however, applauded the effort of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which over the last few years introduced the ETO call-up system.
Russo called for the use of waterways and railways to evacuate cargo from the port to reduce congestion and excess pressure on the road.
Recall that Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of the NPA had severally drawn attention to the fact that although the NPA had over the years been undertaking remedial works on the quays at Tin-Can port, the time has come for a holistic reconstruction to avert collapse.