Container terminals in Lagos ports- Apapa and Tin Can Island have been enmeshed in a congestion debacle in their terminals, with the Seaport Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) planning to send out an early warning of possible imminent breakdown of port operations if something is not done urgently to ease the ports of abandoned consignments.

LEADERSHIP learnt that there are 21,192 20-feet equivalent units (TEUs) of long-staying, or abandoned containers in Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) alone. The situation is replicated at the Apapa Port-based APM Terminals, making the terminal operators to place 75 per cent waiver on storage cost of the long staying containers. But only a few responses were received.

“Long-staying cargo are supposed to be transferred to Customs bonded terminals, or Ikorodu Terminal or any other government warehouse by the Nigeria Ports Authority, but nothing is being done. We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and even during holidays but agencies of government who are supposed to act on the cargoes do not work as much.

“Now clearing agents are just using our terminals as warehouses until they complete their long clearing process with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). Shipping lines are reluctant to stem containers to off docks when terminal is experiencing a high utilisation,” lamented an operations officer at TICT, who refused to be mentioned because he is not permitted to speak with the media.

STOAN spokesman, Mr Bolaji Akinola, who confirmed the ugly development at the container terminals, also blamed the poor transport infrastructure around the port and the rickety nature of most trucks, which leaves them with incessant breakdown on the port road, thereby causing congestion of traffic in the port and contributing to delay in container movement.

“Agents and the importers would want to leave containers and other consignments in the port because the storage charge in Nigeria Ports is cheap. They have the first three days free and a meagre N675 ($4.2) per day, amounting to N8,100 ($51) in 12 days. So, why won’t they turn the ports into their warehouse?

“In the United States, New Jersey for instance, one would pay $3,673 (N591,353) as storage charge for one container in 20 days,” Akinola said.

Nigeria still has an average cargo dwell time of 21 days in a world where other countries have between three and five days. About 8,000 trucks and tankers traffic through the Apapa Port gate per day, but the NPA has continued to maintain its four exit points built over 40 years ago as the main gate of entry and exit into and from the Apapa Port Complex, which houses about six terminals.