By Oluyinka Onigbinde
The Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas and Chief Executive Officer of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, Capt Emmanuel Iheanacho has urged the Federal Government to pull down old and archaic buildings in Apapa in order to have smooth and efficient port operations.
Capt Iheanacho, a first generation master mariner and founding member of the Nigerian Ship owners Association (NISA) gave the advice at a roundtable summit with journalists under the aegis of Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos over the weekend.
He warned that there would be an adverse effect on Nigerian economy if Nigerian port is not working efficiently, Adding that lack of investment in road infrastructure is a major factor responsible for the perennial gridlock in Apapa, Lagos.
He said if the challenges are not addressed, tank farm operators might begin to have challenges in distribution of fuel across the country.
He advised that a commission should be set up to cut across all port operators including shipping companies, regulators, Customs, and immigration among others.
According to him, such commission should also be assisted with the availability of empirical data on the throughput assumptions when the ports were constructed several years ago.
He noted that the traffic situation on access roads to the port is abysmally bad and the ports are currently choked to death. According to him, there is a deficit in terms of the roads available and the traffic that goes into and out of the ports. As part of measures to ease the congestion, Capt. Iheanacho suggested that as cargoes coming in are more than the available infrastructure.
“The roads were built so many years ago in relations to the traffic size, the traffic has since increased and there is need for policy planners to make adequate provisions for roads for various trucks”
“The problem has to do with the fact that we have not seen investment in infrastructure like roads. Policy makers need to redesign the areas very close to the port. There are lots of Absolete buildings around port environment that are not yielding any economic profits”
“It would not be a bad idea if we have people who are forward looking to look at the posibility of acquiring some of these buildings, knock them down and develop additional infrastructure by way of truck parks and access roads and the problem would be solved”
”It is not something we could endure forever and ever, it is something that a special task force should be set up to look at these problems and possible long term solutions to it” he said
The oil magnate however exempted petroleum tank farm owners from the cause of the traffic congestion at the port. According to him, the problem does not lie with the tank farms but with container trucks.
He noted that the roads are too small for the volume of trucks going into the port. According to him, there is also an urgent need for the Federal Government to address the level of refuse taking over major
roads leading to the port.
Iheanacho warned that the Executive Order recently issued by the Federal Government on 24hours port operations cannot succeed without investment in infrastructures.
While addressing the absence of holding bays, Capt Iheanacho said “Ownership of holding bays is not in the remit of shipping companies, it requires a regulator or an entity to look into the volume of cargoes coming into the port and make it easy for trucks to transit the port. I don’t like blame games, a shipping company is a shipping company the owners are there to make profit”
”Apapa port is the heart of the nation and without free movement of cargoes, Nigerian economy would suffer. If goods are cleared within 24hours and there is no road for them to pass, there is no way Nigerian ports can be a hub”
“Today you see rubish heaps contesting for space with trucks, if foreigners come to our ports, they would not think highly of Nigerians in terms of the way we have not been able to organise the transit of goods into and out of our ports”
In redesigning the general layout of the port, he harped on the need to also develop other means of transporting cargoes from the port rail road and water as well as marshaling areas.
On the ongoing reconstruction works on the Wharf road in Apapa, Capt Iheanacho advised that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should have given the work to Julius Berger and spearhead the construction work rather than allow private hands.
“We should have gone beyond the issue of private effort, if there is a private person who wants to help, he should be that we ask him to help in terms of bringing money and we add it to Government own programme.
Government should bring Julius Beer into the project, they have proven themselves over the years to be very efficient” he said.