The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’Council (NSC), Mr Emmanuel Jime, on Tuesday said that the council does not want a replication of Apapa gridlock at the Lekki Freeport Terminal.
Jime made the assertion in Lagos when a delegation from the Lekki Freeport Terminal paid him a visit at the council’s headquarters.
He said that there was need to put things in place to stop such from happening, describing the adoption of all modes of transportation as the way out.
“Lekki Deep Seaport is going to be the game-changer. We are now moving into a period where for the first time, we are able to have ocean-going vessels that normally don’t berth in our ports coming into Lekki.
“Sometime ago, cargoes bound for our shores had to berth in Ghana or Togo and now engage in transhipment, and I think it is a bit embarrassing.
“I believe that Lekki will change these dynamics when it comes into full operations,” he said.
Jime said that for now, the only means of evacuation available was the road connecting the port, and with its present stage, there could be a replication of Apapa.
He, therefore, pointed out that the other modes of transportation needed to be developed.
“From our perspective, there is a need to construct an arrangement where the issue of barging is undertaken by the private sector, so that we can have a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in that regard.
“This is because the nature of barges that will be used are quite capital intensive in procuring them, so the best way to go about restructuring barging should be the PPP mode,” he said.
Jime said that for road, the Lagos state government had an important role to play, noting that if the port would start in September, the deadline, it was obvious that the road issue needed to be addressed aggressively.
“The Minister of Transportation recently touched on some of these issues when he visited and I believe that there is an awareness that somebody needs to take full responsibility and make sure the construction of the road leading out of the port is done.
“I believe that the minister is also specific about the agreement with the Federal Government to ensure that there is intermodal connectivity, and I understand that the rail network is in the master plan.
“This gives some comfort because when it comes to policy decisions, then the understanding is that the problem is just a matter of time before it will be solved,” he said.
Jime said that the council’s mandate was to engage in the business of moderating cost, and if the arrival of Lekki does not impact positively on cost-effectiveness, then, that would have wasted everybody’s time.
“Shippers council will be involved in moderating tariff, especially local tariffs, and this is the time we need to have an idea of what you will be bringing.
“This engagement is very important for you to know what needs to be done so that everyone can make progress, and apart from cost moderation, the council is interested in standards.
“Keep in mind that we have processes that we have implemented with other ports, Standard Operating Procedures. We also have the Port Process Manual that we are implementing.
“There is need to sustain this engagement, which is key, and we are here to guide and support you,” he said.
Responding, Mr Remi Liger-Belair, Managing Director CMA Terminals, urged the council to look into the smooth evacuation of cargo from the terminal.
According to him, his firm is in the business of developing container terminals in the world and so have came to Nigeria to participate in the development of Lekki Deep Seaport.
“One of the challenges we want to address has to do with the issue of evacuation of cargo smoothly from the terminal.
“This will ensure we avoid additional cost on the cargo by awaiting time or any other penalty that will affect the turnaround time,” he said.
He noted that the expectation was that operations would commence fully in March 2023.
Mr Denrick Moos, Chief Executive Officer, Freeport Terminal; Mr Fubara Awanta, General Manager/Head of Government Relations and Security, Freeport Terminal; and Mr Kenny Olubi-Neye, Chief Commercial Officer, Lekki Freeport Terminal, were part of the visiting team. nan.