Shipping firms turn Nigeria to dumping ground as empty containers, tankers litter Lagos roads - BUSINESSDAY
…Businesses, residents suffer losses on long travel time
Nigeria is gradually turning into a dumping ground for empty containers as shipping companies operating in the country’s ports are failing to retrieve their empty containers littering virtually every corner of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve-centre.
The ubiquity of trucks carrying empty containers on Lagos roads and bridges, coupled with petroleum tankers and other articulated vehicles used in hauling import and export cargoes, is leading to endless traffic congestion across the mega city.
The worst hit are roads, streets and bridges that have connection with Apapa, the seat of Nigeria’s two busiest seaports. These include Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Awodi Ora and Wilmer Roads in Ajegunle, Kirikiri, Orile-Iganmu, Second Rainbow -Apple Junction, Ago Palace Way, Ikorodu Road, Ijora, Eko Bridge, among others.
The littering of empty containers and tankers on Lagos roads is as a result of the Federal Government’s failure to properly manage empty containers in the ports, said Jonathan Nicol, president, Shippers Association of Lagos State.
The outrage started after port terminals were concessioned without reserving holding-bay for truckers to park, he said, faulting the Federal Government’s concession model that ceded 100 percent of the port property to private operators.
“Prior to concession, the whole of Apapa port used to accommodate almost 60 percent of the trucks that are parked on the highway today. Then, truckers had holding bay inside the port, where they park pending when they get another job after offloading the empty containers,” he said.
Nigeria has more empty containers in the terminals’ stacking areas than the laden containers, Nicol said, adding that the failure of the shipping lines to retrieve their empty containers was turning Nigeria into a dumping ground.
The littering of Lagos roads with empty containers leaves motorists and residents suffering long travel time to and fro their workplaces, business premises, among others, leading to loss of man-hour.
BusinessDay checks show that a journey of about an hour or less now takes about three to four hours while many now find it increasingly difficult to drive their vehicles to their offices due to impediments created by the presence of these heavy duty vehicles.
“Government is supposed to take out at least 25 percent of its property to ensure presence in the port. However, there is need to give the shipping companies ultimatum to clear their containers off our ports,” Nicol said.
The menace has not only put the integrity of the affected roads and bridges in question, but has also succeeded in escalating the transportation cost for commuters.
Due to the congestion on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway caused by containers and other heavy duty vehicles, Emeka Chukwu, a car dealer in Berger automobile market, said that it has become very difficult to commute from Berger to the popular Ladipo market just to buy spare parts.
“It has become a nightmare for us auto dealers because the congestion has doubled our transportation fare as we pay as much as N1,000 for a journey that we should ordinary pay N500. Also, people are killed every now and then on these roads by upturned containers and other heavy duty vehicles,” he said.
Tony Anakebe, managing director, Gold-Link Investment Ltd, blamed shipping companies for the reckless parking of container-laden trucks on Lagos roads. He said government needs to either revive the refineries or make use of pipeline in evacuation of petroleum products to stop tankers from coming to Apapa.
“If the Federal Government reconstructs the bad portions of the roads leading to Apapa up to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway with these tank farms still here, the tankers will continue to convert the roads to parks and the problem will continue,” Anakebe said.
According to him, the low volume of Nigeria’s non-oil export has made majority of containers used in bringing imports to be taken out of Nigeria empty, which makes things increasingly difficult for shipping companies.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its recent foreign trade report confirmed that crude oil export has been the mainstay of the nation’s economy, as it accounts for over N4.2 trillion, representing 84.2 percent share of the total exports in the fourth quarter of 2018.
NBS further revealed that non-oil products (including solid minerals, manufactured goods and agric produce) accounted for 4.6 percent of the total exports, leaving the remaining oil products (not crude) to account for 11.2 percent of the total exports in the quarter under review.
“The delay in returning empty containers in our ports is a deliberate act to drain importers of their hard-earned resources. If you bring empty container today, discharge it tomorrow and return the next day, the shipping companies will not make money. Government needs to stamp its authority that every shipping company must provide holding-bay for dropping empty containers,” Anakebe said.
He further said shipping companies collect demurrage charges from shippers for not returning empty containers as and when due, adding, “They collect billions of naira worth of Container Deposit Charges per annum. This is why they will continue to frustrate return of empty containers.”