Opening-up Eastern ports to decongest Lagos port
One of the greatest hindrances to efficiency at the seaports in Lagos is congestion. This is due to the incessant traffic gridlocks and bad state of the access roads to the port, thereby, making it impossible for importers to take delivery of their consignments as and when due.
The worrisome aspect of this ‘congestion’ is that apart from Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports that handle over 85 percent of cargo imported into the country, Nigeria has seaports in Calabar, Warri, Onne and Rivers that remain under utilised. Four of these seaports put together do not measure up to one of the seaports in Lagos in terms of volume.
Ironically, the majority of shippers (importers and exporters) that use Lagos ports are located in the South East, South-South and Northern parts of country. As a result, these importers pay double in cost to move their cargo from Lagos by road to their warehouses located in their states.
Here, bulk of the Lagos ports importers are constrained against their wish to import through Lagos ports since container laden vessels do not frequent the Eastern ports owing to barriers such as lack of political will to open-up these ports, shallow draft of water channels leading to the ports and security concern deterring shipping liners from patronising the ports.
Considering the fact that cargo must get to the final destination at the right time, in good condition and at the most economic cost, South East, South-South and Northern importers, therefore, must use Lagos.
For instance, in terms of cost, shipping companies charge as much as N800,000 as deposit per container where the consignee’s address is outside Lagos against N150,000 if the destination of consignment is Lagos.
Also, importation of some products e.g. pharmaceutical products are restricted to Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin-Can Island only, hence, the above mentioned regions with their very huge pharmaceutical markets are forced through government policy and directive to import their goods through the Lagos ports, thus leaving other ports of the regions unviable. Lagos ports are also the only legitimate ports for the export of non-oil products.
Therefore, to address the problem of congestion currently rocking Lagos ports, government must start finding ways to review some import and export guidelines militating against the viability of Eastern ports. The government should also muster the political will to make the ports outside Lagos viable by addressing the infrastructural challenge facing them.
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