Charcoal as well as agricultural products such as cocoa, sesame, cashew nuts and cotton, dominated the list of containerised commodities exported from Nigeria in the first half of this year, according to a Trade Report released by Maersk Nigeria Limited.
Charcoal export out of Nigeria rose by 76 per cent as of May 2013, when compared to the same period in 2012.
The rise in volume has been attributed to the longer winter season experienced in Europe.
Finished produce export in May 2013 experienced a 39 per cent year-on-year growth due to major manufacturing firms streamlining their production activities by making Nigeria their main production hub for the region.
However, the finished produce export share still remains low from Nigeria, according to the Managing Director of Maersk Nigeria Limited (MNL) and Head of the Central West Africa Cluster, Mr. Jan Thorhauge.
Thorhauge said that as of May 2013, the containerised import market to Nigeria is estimated to have ended at approximately 159,000 FFE (40-foot equivalent units), as compared with the same period in 2012 which produced an estimated volume of 155,000 FFE, representing a relatively marginal year-on-year growth of around two per cent.
The Maersk Nigeria Chief Executive also said that the East Nigerian market maintained its superior performance over the Western part of the country in terms of growth in volume ratio, with a year-on-year growth ratio of 10 per cent on import and one percent on export.
Thorhauge said that Maersk Line maintained its position as the leading shipping line into Nigeria, and combined with its sister company Safmarine, commanded an estimated 37 per cent share of the import market and 28 percent on the export market.
“Not much has changed as the containerised market in Nigeria continues to be strongly dominated by imports, and for the last six years, the import/export ratio has remained at around 92 percent import versus eight per cent export,” he said.
According to Thorhauge, most of the country’s containerised cargoes come from the Far East, mostly China, while for most of her export commodities have been going into Europe.
“The sourcing patterns have not changed fundamentally in the last six years though imports from Europe and Middle East has experienced significant increase in the last two years,” he said.
Major products coming from the Middle East are industrial raw materials, chemicals, electronics, iron and steel and tyres while from Europe, major products include industrial raw materials, frozen fish and cars.
The increased sourcing pattern can be attributed to better pricing from these regions, increase in the age limits of imported automobiles from five years to 10 years, increased construction as well as growing demands for finished products by the Nigerian populace.
He went on to say that Nigeria’s export ratio can be improved if the Government is able to improve on infrastructures such as power supply, road network and rail services.
The dominant items imported into the country, according to Thorhauge, have remained the same over the past six years and are made up of traditional commodities including cars, electronics, construction materials, food items, chemicals, electrical fittings, machinery and paper among other goods covering industrial as well as private needs.
“We are quite optimistic that the import market in Nigeria will grow by about 6 – 8 per cent for the second half of 2013. The export market is subject to harvest conditions and global market prices, but we foresee an increase of about eight per cent for the rest of the year.
“Forecasting in general in Nigeria remains a challenge and 2013 is no different. The market development will – as always – depend heavily on unpredictable macro-economic factors as well as stable oil prices and oil production, security issues in Northern Nigeria, relative peace in Eastern Nigeria, Government policies, exchange rate fluctuations for the Naira etc,” Thorhauge said.
He said that most of the terminals in Nigeria have made major investments in the early parts of the year 2013 in terms of infrastructure, container handling equipment and terminal management software stating that these investments, along with the dampened market, have resulted in reduction in port congestion.
“APMT Apapa has in early 2013 initiated the final phase of their expansion plans, and both TICT and Ports and Cargo Handling Services are today operating almost entirely with RTGs (rubber tired gantry cranes), which have dramatically increased the yard capacity. The average dwell-time days (the time spent between a container being discharged and leaving the terminal) has also gone down by around 40 per cent.
“Irrespective of these improvements, it is expected that the terminal capacity in Lagos ports will be fully utilised within the next 4 – 5 years, and it is essential that steps are taken to find new terminal capacity in order to keep up with Nigeria’s economic growth. Poor road infrastructure outside the terminals and lacking rail services also remain a concern.
“From a Maersk Line perspective, we continue to offer a combination of direct services from the Far East, as well our relay products from the Western Mediterranean and today Maersk Line has seven weekly calls in the largest Nigerian ports. The 4,500 TEU (20-foot equivalent) WAFMAX vessels we deployed in 2011/2012 remain by far the largest container vessels calling Nigeria. The WAFMAX vessels initially only called the port of Apapa, but have now in 2013 started calling Tincan Island (TICT) and plans are underway to include Onne as a port of call ,” Thorhauge added.
Maersk Line in 2011 invested US$2 billion in 22 new ships specially-designed to visit West Africa’s shallow-water ports. All the WAFMAX ships designed for Nigerian ports are currently in operation.
Maersk Line transported 8.5 million FFE containers in 2012 and is the largest container carrier in the world.
It has a 36 per cent and 27 per cent import and export shares respectively of the container shipping market in sub-Saharan Africa.
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