Economic mgt team meets stakeholders, promises to address port challenges

Despite numerous suggestions on addressing challenges militating against efficient port operations by stakeholders, most of which are often times not implemented, the National Economic Management Team chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan has again set up a technical committee to address operational challenges at the nation’s gateways.  This is even as some stakeholders have expressed doubts if the Federal Government would implement suggestions made at the meeting.

At a meeting with the technical committee held in Apapa, Lagos yesterday, maritime stakeholders identified poor state of the port access road as the major cause of the perennial traffic gridlock being experienced around the port even as they called for an urgent need to revitalize the railway system to reduce the pressure on the roads.

The stakeholders also blamed the gridlock on the indiscriminate parking of trucks on the access road.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), John Aluya said over 25 per cent cost of clearing goods is as a result of the gridlock along the port access road.

He said until the appropriate authorities adopt the call-up system whereby trucks can only visit the port when invited, it may be difficult to address the gridlock.

“Over 25 percent inflation of what we have in our goods and services today is created by this gridlock. If the port is properly organized, well positioned that we can work within 48 hours deadline of cargo delivery, we will be able to produce goods at a cheaper price. Any delay in the timely delivery of raw materials will automatically lead to higher cost of finished products.

“To get sanity we need to obey the law. The era of turning our roads to mechanic workshop, to parking lots must be stopped,” Aluya said.

Also speaking, General Manger of PTML, Tunde Keshiro said the major problem confronting port operation is inconsistency of government policies.

He noted that volume of trade at the port has increased compared to when the port was concessioned but lamented that nothing has been done to improve on the existing road infrastructure.

He said, “Oftentimes things that are discussed are more of symptoms rather than the main issue and unfortunately it seems that is the way we are going around it this time too. The critical thing is for the concerned agency of government to look at the structure of the maritime industry by that I mean what the port use to be then and now, the rate at which cargo is being brought in and discharged is on the higher pedestal but what has happened outside the gate?  Has there been any change in infrastructure or environment?”

On his part, Chairman Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) Chief Remi Ogungbemi said it was unfortunate that most of the blames were being laid on the truckers saying that truckers are not the cause of port problem.

He said the government failed to make provision for holding bays when the ports were concessioned.

He suggested that the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal be converted to serve as holding bay for empty containers through which barges can be used to transfer empties to ships at Apapa and Tincan Island Ports.

Speaking earlier, Chairman of the Technical Committee of Economic Management Team and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Peter Obi said the essence of setting up the committee was to see how port operations could be improved upon such that it would become more viable and more profitable to economic activities.

On fears that recommendations made to the committee would not be implemented, he said: “You can’t blame the stakeholders for expressing doubt. But the question we need to ask is who are those that put up the past committees together? We are hoping that this will make a difference and I know government is serious about it and we will also brief the coordinating minister about it. We want to see how we can leverage the port as a further source to our economic development,” Obi who was represented by a Director of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Gabriel Aduda said.

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