Yes, Apapa gridlock is back

As predicted by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY yesterday, the menacing Apapa gridlock, which grounded commercial activities in the Lagos metropolis two weeks ago, returned with a vengeance yesterday as tankers descended on Apapa to lift petroleum products after a 10-day strike.

Long lines of petroleum tankers stretched along major routes leading to Apapa including the popular Wharf Road to Ijora Causeway and on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

The relief experienced by Apapa residents and commuters over the past one week was because of the petroleum tankers strike, according to a resident.

“We knew it was an illusion to say the problem was over. The roads became free because of the tanker drivers and oil marketers’ strike but now that the strike has been called off, it is inevitable that the gridlock will return,” said a port worker, Emmanuel Ewherido.

Ewherido said the situation would worsen as more trucks descend on the port city from various parts of the country to lift petroleum products from the plethora of oil jetties and tank farms operating the area.

Two weeks ago, Chairman, Seaport Terminal Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup said the Apapa gridlock was a direct consequence of system failure in the oil and gas industry logistics chain.

Haastrup said the only way to solve the gridlock was to immediately suspend the lifting of imported petroleum products from tank farms by road.

“There is an over-concentration of oil tank farms in Apapa, an area predominantly designed for port operations. There is now a situation where we have proliferation of oil tank farms without regards for the safety logistics implication.

“I issued a warning over five years ago advising government to discontinue tank farm operations in Apapa but nothing was done. The problem is now staring all of us in the face.

“Port operations have been brought to a virtual standstill as a result of this chaos created by tank farm and oil tankers and it does not look like anyone is doing anything drastic about it.

“We have a situation where over 10,000 tankers descend on Apapa daily and when you add this to the number of conventional trucks on routine maritime operations, it is not surprising that we have the kind of gridlock we are currently witnessing,” she said.

On the immediate solution to the problem, Haastrup said, “There must be immediate suspension of the evacuation of petroleum products from Apapa by road. The authorities must immediately activate the use of barges in petroleum products evacuation.

“Petroleum products meant for the northern part of the country should be moved to Lokoja and Baro Ports by barges while the trucks collect them from there rather than coming to Apapa.

“Petroleum products meant for the South East and South South should be moved by barges to Onitsha Port, Warri Port, Port Harcourt Port and Calabar Port. The trucks then go to those places to pick up and distribute.

“This is the way to go and this will immediately reduce the number of tankers coming to Apapa to a manageable number.

“Ultimately and on the long run, the incoming government should get our refineries working to reduce the nation’s avoidable dependence on importation of petroleum products. The tank farms in Apapa must also be relocated to allow a breath of fresh air for port operation,” Haastrup said.

She said port operators and their staff have been worse hit by the gridlock as the various operators have suffered “substantial losses” since the gridlock set in.

“The gridlock also has serious and dire consequences on the economy,” she added.

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