When on October 14,1977, the then Federal Military Government headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned the Tin-Can Island Port in Apapa, Lagos, the new facility was intended to ease off some of the awesome burden of ship and cargo congestion that the nearby Apapa Port contended with in the post-Civil War “oil boom” days.
Thereof, and till date, Apapa Port, owing so much to the existence of Tin-Can Island Port, has been spared a replay of the nightmarish congestion saga, including the Cement Armada, that assailed Apapa Port those halcyon days.
Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) is today an amalgam of what used to be Tin-Can Island and RoRo ports. The concession of the terminals in May 2006 had spawned the merger of the duo. Under the concession component of the Federal Government’s Ports Reform Programme, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was divested of cargo handling brief.
Therefore, Private Terminal Operators took over on May 10, 2006, responsibility for the TCIPC’s Terminals A, C and D, while Terminal B was handed over on the June 1, 2006. A greenfield development by Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML), which is a build, own, operate, and transfer (BOOT) terminal, and a part of the TCIPC, commenced operations in September 2006.
“Operationally, there have been marked improvements in turnaround time and berth occupancy. Average Berth Occupancy rate has improved from 75 per cent by the end of 2006 to 83 per cent as at now,” according to the NPA, adding: “Since the commencement of the Lease Agreement in 2006, the Terminal Operators have embarked on planned and redevelopment of their terminals with a view to building capacity and staying competitive.”
Unfortunately, in spite of such positive contributions of the TCIPC to the Nigerian ports system, a bad reputation hangs heavy on the facility, largely owing to the antics of unscrupulous importers, Customs agents and Customs personnel. This much the blunt-talking Comptroller-General Dikko Inde Abdullahi affirmed last Thursday at A Stakeholders Forum, which held at the Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), when he lamented that the TCIPC was a haunt of cagey agents and their cohorts.
This embellished observation by the Customs chief beams the searchlight on the uncomplimentary stature of the port, as highlighted by the matter of the poor compliance level with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code that had been recorded for the TCIPC by a delegation of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), with the implications of possible sanctions, if Nigeria does not rectify the inadequacies in the implementation of the Code.
We feel strongly that this poor state-of-affairs should no longer prevail at this strategic port location.
The TCIPC, in spite of its major challenge of being directly accessible at multiple points from the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, should cease to host the throng of humanity that it hosts. It is undeniable that this seemingly unregulated human traffic provides the foot soldiers that fan frequent crises at the complex, under various guises, including so-called protests by agents.
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