Port congestion: Nigerian government to auction overtime cargo

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja


The Nigerian government plans to auction overtime cargoes at the Lagos ports to avoid congestion that could result from the closure of the country’s land borders as Christmas approaches.

This was one of the outcomes of a meeting between agencies of government, stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector and the Lagos State government on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had in attendance the Minister of State for Works, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, truckers and the Lagos State government.

Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, who spoke with State House correspondents, said the meeting discussed how to ensure that there was no congestion of the ports.

“We are keen to ensure that all cargoes coming into the ports have seamless inflow and outflow.  We deliberated on the need to ensure that overtime cargoes are auctioned and removed from the terminal locations and also to facilitate a seamless outflow.“

Bala-Usman said that the Ogun State, Lagos State, the NPA, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing would collaborate to provide an expanded trailer park to facilitate seamless movement of cargo out of the ports.

“In addition, we are keen to have an expanded trailer park system whereby Ogun State government, Lagos State government, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Federal Ministry of Works all collaborate and donate trailer park into a company that will facilitate an electronic call-up system whereby trucks come into the states via Ogun State domiciled in Lagos and then proceed to the ports. 

“So, this is a long term solution, but in the short term we are working with the Presidential Task Force to facilitate and ensure movement of cargo within this particular period, where we are going to have a huge inflow of cargo due to the closure of the land borders. 

“We believe that we need to be on our toes to ensure that all consignees get their cargo within the shortest period.”

Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello,  said the meeting discussed  how “to avert a looming problem  caused by not only the gridlock in terms of traffic but also congestion in the ports.”

Bello said that some terminals have about 97% occupancy with the inflow of goods to the ports.

“We need space for the Christmas cargo to come in.  So, many things where discussed today, including extending free days by the terminals from three to 15 days. 

“Also demurrage reduction from 10 days to 90 days so that people will come and take their cargo out, while overtime cargo should be auctioned. 

“Then scanners should be deployed to the ports because it takes between five and six minutes to examine containers using scanners but physical examination takes five hours. 

“You can see that there is a slow process.  These are what we are going to look at. What happens at the terminals has effect on the congestion we see at the ports.”