“With effective rail transportation of goods from the ports to the hinterland, less pressure will be on the roads and goods will get to destinations more secured and at less cost”.
“The ministry is worried by the time waste on ports and therefore is reviewing policies with a view to improving cargo transportation”
Those were the exact words of the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi at the recent 2017 World Maritime Day which held in Lagos. With those words, he was obviously underscoring the terribly bad state of the two approaches to Lagos ports by road.
To ameliorate the hardships being faced by port users, the minister said the Federal Government will procure 100 locomotive wagons to aid the evacuation of goods from the ports by the railway.
Apapa has always been very strategic to the nation’s economy. The port city of Apapa is home to Nigeria’s two foremost ports which are currently being managed by nine terminal operators. Between the two ports called; Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port, more than 65 percent of dry cargoes and about 90 per cent of the nation’s liquid (petroleum products) are handled.
This is because it hosts about 45 tank farms (and still counting). These are in addition to the many shipping companies/agencies, licensed customs offices and numerous other businesses that are located in this port city. On a normal day, Apapa is a busy city, with heavy vehicular and human traffic; this is in addition to other human endeavours that take place there.
The port city of Apapa equally plays host to countless number of banks and several port- related activities. The port city is sandwiched in between highbrow residential areas like Apapa GRA, Beachland estate, and low income residential areas such as Ajegunle and Ijora, it also shares boundaries with a couple of riverside settlements.
Apapa is linked to the rest of the city by two major highways; the Apapa – Oshodi expressway and Apapa-Ijora road. Of course, it can also be approached by water from Mile Two (on the mainland) and Marina axis (on the Island).
Articulated trucks come into Lagos empty, but they leave fully-loaded with products, thus contributing their quota to the poor state of the roads and the already debilitating vehicular traffic in and around Apapa and indeed the metropolis.
Last week, the Minister of Works, Power and Housing; Mr Babatunde Fashola announced that the truck park at Tin Can port would soon be ready for use.
The contract was awarded by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Works, to Messrs Borni Prono Construction Company in 2009 at the cost of N8.6 billion. It was meant to ease the traffic congestion around the Tin Can Port. It was expected to have been completed within the first quarter of 2012.
If the government is desirous of easing pressure on the roads into Apapa, then it has to genuinely consider alternatives, such as the use of railways and water.
As much as we commend government for its planned deployment of more locomotive wagons to aid the evacuation of goods from the ports by the railway, we are of the opinion that attention also needed to be put on relieving access roads into Apapa of the enormous human traffic by road. Efficient and available passenger rail transportation in and out of Apapa is also an imperative.
As stated earlier, Apapa can be accessed by water from Mile Two (on the mainland) and Marina axis (on the Island). Taken further, many of those who commute to and from Apapa on daily basis are either from the island, mainland or suburb. There is no part of these areas that does not have access to water. Therefore they can commute to Apapa by water.
The same can be said of rail, the facility can be extended to Apapa.
The more pertinent question to ask the Minister of Transport is: Is there an existing rail track from the ports that the locomotive wagons will navigate?
Rather than unleash 100 locomotive wagons on Apapa to freight cargoes, it is more important to have a comprehensive master plan for vehicular and human traffic in and out of the port city called Apapa.
Since it has been established that the debilitating traffic in Apapa is attributable to heavy presence of articulated vehicles, either laden with petroleum products or container laden trucks, and of course the poor state of the roads, the wagons that the Minister is promising will only push container traffic from Apapa to another part of Lagos or adjoining towns.