As part of its effort to ensure that substantive amount of import and export cargoes are moved through the rail systems, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transportation yesterday in Lagos disclosed that it’s perfecting plans to concession the rail lines leading to the nation’s seaports to take pressure off Nigerian roads.
The ports that would benefit from this include Apapa and Port Harcourt Ports that are connected to the national line while the other seaports like Tin-Can Island Port, would be concessioned if connected.
Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), dropped this hint yesterday in Lagos while responding to issues around using effective intermodal transport system to move cargoes from the nation’s seaports as suggested by stakeholders during World Maritime Day Celebration, organised by the Transport Ministry.
“The ongoing concessioning exercise of the rail lines in the seaports, would definitely take cargoes from the ports to the hinterland and, the NPA is keen to work closely with the proposed concessionaires and the transaction advisers to ensure that the concession exercise prioritizes the evacuation of cargo from the port. And we understand the need for private sector to lead investment and development in the port,” Usman said.
According to her, to effectively move cargo in and out of the port, there is need for the Federal Ministry of Transport to provide clear timeline and percentage of cargoes that should be moved through the different nooses of transportation that include inland waters, road and rail line.
“We need to determine the percentages to be apportioned to a particular transportation model for evacuation of cargo out of the ports using the road, rail and inland waters. For instance, we need to determine that 30 percent of our cargoes must go through the rail and commit about three to four years timeline to achieving this and also deploy the necessary resources to building the needed infrastructure to achieve this,” she emphasized.
NPA, she further disclosed has commenced the decongestion of access road into Apapa port, is determined to ensure that there are other means of cargo evacuation out of the port because “all cargoes cannot be moved by road.”
On the decaying state of port infrastructure, the NPA boss says her management has identified the need to improve on the existing port infrastructure that is why the authority has commissioned its staff to evaluate the level of decay in port infrastructure in the country. “We have given a directive that all our budgetary allocation would be tied to developing infrastructure that would increase the revenue generation of NPA. Our focus is ensuring that our degenerated infrastructure is improved upon.”
Presenting a paper titled, “Growth and Development of Shipping Industry in Nigeria: Creating Enabling Environment,” Adamu Biu, former executive secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), warned the Federal Government that there is need to upgrade the existing port infrastructure to not only improve on cargo movement but to avoid Nigerian ports would return back to the 60s and 70s when we had the ‘cement boom’.
Biu, who noted that there is need to connect the Tin-Can Island port, a major port in Nigeria and other major seaports in the country to be actively in the national rail line, said that the current state of the port access roads makes it difficult to move cargoes out of the port.
“We have to consider using the rail system to move containers. In France for instance, the railway system was incorporated into the port system such that as the vessel berths in the seaside, cargo would be discharged directly from the ship into the rail without having to deal with trucks littering the roads around the port. There wouldn’t be any need to rely on the road to move containers and this would reduce pressure on the roads as well.