Traffic Gridlock: Tin Can Island Port overstretched by 5 million tonnes

Hadiza Bala Usman

…NPA should manage port traffic like FAAN

By Adegboyega Oni

To stem the ugly phenomenon of port traffic gridlock, a network of flyover bridges and rail lines will have to be built from the Tin Can Port exit gate to fly over the Coconut canal into the Lagos heartland.

This was the submission of a top and reliable source at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) who blasted the Federal Government for prioritizing an unrelenting revenue drive while neglecting the infrastructure upgrade and development of the port which was built in 1977 to handle 3 million tons of cargo but is now overburdened with 8 million tons of cargo throughput.

The source also noted that the federal government blames port stakeholders for all the ills that have befallen the port whereas, in spite of trillion of Naira realized in the port, the federal government has found it very difficult to invest in port infrastructure renewal over the years until Dangote Group intervened recently with the rebuild of Apapa Port-Oshodi-Oworosoki road.

The NPA source explained that the present Tin Can Port, in volume and capacity, is equal to six ports since all the private concessionaires and PTML port are independent ports in their own rights when the volumes of cargo they handle are considered.

“The present infrastructure in Tin Can Port is obsolete, inadequate and overstretched. Tin Can port is home to six ports as each of the terminals and PTML are standard ports in their own rights when you consider the massive volumes of cargo they handle weekly, monthly and yearly. If they had not taken their cargo to off-dock terminals, the entire port would have collapsed as there would not have been any space to store cargo.  In all honesty, the existing infrastructure, be it road or space, is not adequate to cope with a huge volume of cargo that is coming in or going out of the port presently,” said the source.

The source said that the traffic is also exacerbated by the ongoing reconstruction of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, pointing out that at this period of the year (October to December) when there is a tremendous increase in the volume of cargo, work should have temporarily stopped or the contractor moves operations away from the port entrance to another section of the road. ”All this somehow obstructs inflow and outflow of cargo making it difficult for trucks to move through the construction to access the port,” it noted.

The source suggested that government should handover the full maintenance of the Mile 2 section of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to Ijora to the management of NPA like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which manages all the port access roads at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport at Ikeja in Lagos and in other airports in the country. He noted that NPA is capable of managing the roads and there will be sanity as NPA will be responsible for traffic control and management.

The NPA source decried the unprofessional and arrogant conduct of the Presidential Task Force on Apapa Traffic Gridlock in traffic control in Apapa port environs. ”They push too many trucks into the port without notifying the port management and terminal operators. This encourages corruption as many drivers allege that they pay sums to the PTF officials to facilitate their entry into the port when in fact they have not been called by the terminal operators for loading. The situation has somehow made many truck drivers to be heady; misbehave and jerk up their charges from N300,000 to as much as N1.5 million without consulting anyone, and nobody cares to ask questions.    

“Unfortunately, findings indicate that many truck drivers who pay to PTF to jump the queue are still trapped in the traffic gridlock. The message here is that the port is a technical area where traffic could only be handled by professionals and not politically appointed persons such as the PTF who have caused more problems for traffic management in the port,” he blasted.

 The NPA top source however advised the federal government to build a new road with a bridge right from the port across the opposite river through Boundary in Ajegunle to Ijora and to link all parts of the Lagos metropolis, to relieve the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway of heavy vehicular traffic it contends with every day.

The source further averred that roads alone would not do the magic as Tin Can Port needs to be linked by railway right from Apapa Port. Asked how and where the rail line will pass through to connect the port, the source said that the federal government will create a right-of-way through the companies located along the Creek Road down to Liverpool and connect the port.

The source noted that the traffic crisis is also worsened by the transit park opposite the port which is too small to accommodate the huge number of vehicles coming to port to pick or drop cargo. According to the information, the transit park can only handle a terminal, not the entire terminals in the port. He however advised the government to build more transit parks to provide more space for cargo trucks to park.

 The source welcomed barge operation as an alternative but maintained that the operation of barge operators is still closely being scrutinized by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority. According to the source, ”barge will help to alleviate the traffic.”

(The write is reprinted)

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