By Bayo Bernard
Terminal operator operating in Apapa ports have warned the federal government over plan by the federal ministry of Power, works and Housing to shut down Marine Bridge for repairs in the next few weeks. The operators said the action will result in huge loses to them, aside attendant disruption on ports activities.
No fewer than nine terminal operators are conducting business in the two ports of Tin can and Apapa ports. Four operators, APM Terminals, Apapa Bulk Terminal, ENL Consortium, Greenview Development operate in the Lagos Port Complex while five others namely Tin Can Island Container Terminal, Port and Cargo, Josephdam, PTML and Five Stars Logistics are operating at the Tin Can Island Port Complex.
Should the government still go ahead with the plan the companies said they will be left with no option than to declare a force majeure.
The Babatunde Fashola led-ministry has recently announced that the bridge will be shut to vehicular traffic ahead the repairs expected to start in the next few weeks. The repair works will be handled by construction giant, Julius Berger.
The development also coincided with the ongoing construction work of a portion of Wharf road by another construction firm, AG Dangote. The company has recently also indicated its plan to close down both side of the road, to fast-track the construction work.
Port users and motorists have groaned under the slow pace of work which the company started last year. Experts warn of more hardship for road users as the raining season approaches. In fact the heavy rainfall in the last few days has further compounded the problems of users of the road.
The terminal operators are however more concerned with the cost implication to their business if the two major road to both the Lagos Port Complex and Tin can Port Complex are totally shut down for repairs.
The operators under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria ( STOAN), have recently warned of dire consequences should the ministry went ahead with the closure. Apart from declaring force majure, the companies are currently considering the option of suing the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA a la federal government for breach of concession agreement contract the terminal operators had with the Nigerian government,
STOAN last week warned that the twin closure will lead to cargo build up and eventual congestion at the ports. The timing of the closure TOAN said will create a lot of problems for its members.
STOAN said ”while we commend the efforts of the federal government to address the issue of bad roads and the poor state of the bridge, the closure of both roads at about the same time will cause serious problems to the ports especially the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa and the Tin can Island Port.
The bridge and the Wharf Road are the two major entry points into Apapa and shutting both down will mean cargoes will be trapped inside the port. The implication of this is that there will be build up of cargoes at the various terminals and port congestion will inevitably set in.
“In no time” STOAN warns ”vessel queues will return and Nigerians ports run the risk of returning to the point where they were prior to port concession.”
According to the terminal operators this could lead to dire consequences, because ”once vessels queues return, shipping lines concession surcharge, which could amount to as much as $100 million per month could be slammed on the Nigerian ports and this cost will ultimately be borne by the market.”
Despite the warning, the ministry said it will still go ahead will the repairs expected to start any moment from now. Sources in the ministry told the magazine that the roads were already due for repairs and that the federal government had no plans to reverse its decision.