Large scale movement of cargo by rail still a pipe dream

There are indications that the call for a more organised intermodal approach to facilitate movement of cargo in and out of the ports in the country may still remain a far cry especially because the present recession that the economy is going through. Also some stakeholders believe that the because of the colossal amount of money  involved in getting a functional standard gauge rail line network across the ports, the present government may not be willing to touch it in the remaining part of its tenure.

This has also created a gloomy picture in the sector, especially in Lagos where all the access road leading to the ports has become over used and highly dilapidated thereby causing day to day havoc. SHIPS & PORTS DAILY investigations show that no day passes without a container falling on the roads and causing mayhem.   It is believed that the more pressure that the roads are made to undergo, the more rundown they become.

However in spite of the challenges some terminals at ports are running skeletal movement of cargo by rail but Boye Uzamot of ENL Consortium told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the rail system as an intermodal mode of transport in the maritime industry is beyond the terminals because the project belongs initially to the Nigeria Railway Corporation and they are the owner of the rail lines, the wagons and anybody wanting to take its cargo through the rail will first has to liaise with the Railways.

“They have to release the wagons before liaising with the terminals that will now provide the facilities for the moving the cargo into the rail wagons,” he said.

He said that while moving cargo by rail will facilitate trade, it is an all-inclusive that will involve the Nigerian Railway, the federal ministry of transport and the terminals. He said the process will lessen cost of movement and the pressure on roads. He explained that presently the movement is skeletal involving petroleum products, fertilisers and containers to the northern part of the country

Recently the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman emphasized the need to move cargo in and out of the port by rail so as to lessen pressure on the road. She said that because of the exigency of the times, the NPA will work with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to facilitate this by ensuring that the tracks are in place and provision made for rolling stock.

The disclosure was coming on the heels of several calls by stakeholders for shift from emphasis on road haulage to intermodal transport especially as access road to Lagos and other ports are highly dilapidated.

At ENL Consortium and Apapa Bulk Terminal Ltd, Usman tried to find out how they’ve been able to make use of rail to move cargo. Mark Walsh, Executive Director Operations of ENL explained that the use of the rails has not been very popular with port users, but since the terminal started making use of it, others have seen the need.

Usman encouraged port users to adjust to more frequent use of the rail, urging them to get across to NPA concerning any challenge in this regard which will be sorted out with the Nigerian Railway Corporation.