By Steve Agbota, Lagos
The Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has called on the Federal Government to intervene over decaying infrastructure in and around the Tin Can Island Port.
Speaking during an interactive meeting with the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, in Lagos, the representative of STOAN, Mr Ascanio Russo, decried the level of infrastructure decay at the Port, saying there is a need for government to address the decay so as to make the port more competitive.
However, he expressed the willingness of terminal operators to increase their investments at the nation’s ports.
“One of the major challenges that terminal operators face in Lagos at the moment and for some time now is the condition of the port infrastructure, especially in Tin Can Island Port.
“As you know, terminal operators have been operating in Lagos for over 15 years and have made a significant investment in infrastructure, equipment, and human resources. And over time, we have really increased the level of productivity in the port,” he added.
According to him, terminal operators have now reached the stage to make the necessary investment to really bring back to the original status of the decaying infrastructure, especially in Tin Can Island Port.
“From our side, we want to confirm that we are committed serious investors and we are ready to participate to invest directly in this infrastructure. We have been here for many years and we plan to be here for more years.
“So, we are very happy that you have identified the challenges in the area of infrastructure and we want to confirm to you that we are ready to make the necessary investment.
“We are ready to sit with you and your team to look at the legal and financial framework under which we can make this investment to continue to keep Lagos ports competitive,” Mr Russo, who is also the Managing Director of PTML Terminal, said.
He said while the new port being constructed in Lekki is an opportunity for Lagos, the ports in Apapa and Tin Can Island should not be neglected as they would still be very relevant.
“So, it is very necessary to allow the investment and infrastructure to make the port stay relevant and competitive. I want to make mention of concession renewal. This has been the concern of our members. We have been negotiating for some time on this matter.
“And it is worthy of note to say that this investment will require a very long time to be recovered. Our members need commitment. So, I believe that from all our members, there is the intention to continue to invest but of course, they want to finalize as soon as possible, the issue of concession renewal,” he said.
He hinted that congestion is another challenge being faced by terminal operators, saying that currently in the port, people may not see any because of the economic condition the country is facing at the moment and the general crisis all over the world and especially the lockdown in China, which is affecting the cargos coming to Lagos.
“What we are seeing at the moment is just an artificial normal flow of cargoes but we know that very soon, congestion is going to come back. And at the moment, there is a reduction of imported cargoes into Lagos by about 20 to 25 per cent. That is huge but we know that this is just a moment and very soon, the congestion is going to affect the port.
“Congestion is going to affect the port again. We want to applaud the effort of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which over the last few years introduced the ETO call-up system, but we think there is more work to be done,” he said.
Russo advocated the use of waterways and railways to evacuate cargo from the port to reduce congestion and excess pressure on the road.