There is no emergency exit at the Apapa port in case of any eventuality
President of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Senior Staff Association, Comrade Adamu Yau in this interview with Shipping Position Daily correspondent; Dapo Olawuni lamented alleged high handedness of security agencies drafted to ensure discipline on the roads leading to Lagos ports. He alleged that they are the major contributors to the traffic gridlock. He also told our correspondent that currently, there is no rancour between the union and the NPA management.
The present management has done well in terms of welfare and promotion
What effect has the completed Wharf Road had on cargo movement from Apapa?
The road is very important, it would facilitate traffic in and out of the port, but unfortunately, the problem of that axis is not the road per se, something is happening that didn't happen before, now the security agencies have found it to be a lucrative business, they are using this to create more problems for port users. By now, we do not expect a heavy traffic movement along Wharf Road because almost 99% of the project has been completed by Dangote, so the traffic should not be a problem again, the flow inwards and outwards of Apapa should not be a problem, but unfortunately, the uniform men have found it to be a business venture now and they are creating more problems than expected. If you look at the top of the Ijora Bridge, when you go down from Alaka to Ijora and to ascend the Marine Beach down to Leventis, that blockade is unnecessary, if the traffic is one line inwards Apapa, the traffic would be okay, but the uniform men would go and block the place; on top of the Ijora bridge has now become a business venture for security officers, if you go to the middle of that Ijora bridge, you would see a number of people negotiating, a number of people including motor boys, tanker drivers, trailer owners, they have to negotiate before you can see the traffic flowing down which is uncalled for.
What effect does this have on cargo throughput and turn-around time?
Definitely, it would have an effect because the normal trucks turn-around time is not there; definitely it would have effect on the cargo throughput. The cargo dwell time is higher now because consignments now stay longer inside the port, right now there is not enough space inside the port for stacking, all the terminal operators have carved their own area, for the last 16 years I didn't enter the Apapa Control Tower, but during the last warning strike by Labour, I got over there and saw that the road I know was not the road that is there again, the road is now part of APM Terminal, so we have only one single road in the whole of Apapa port now which is not the best, there must be an emergency exit out of the port and it is not there, the only emergency is through the water and we cannot call it emergency exit because you have to use the boat, what about those that do not have access to the boat? It means there would be chaos and disaster.
How about the exit at ABTL terminal which leads to dockyard?
The dockyard exit is still blocked, if you enter through shed six through ABTL, immediately you enter, the ABTL would have blocked the road with fertilizer trucks, when you are coming down through Continental Shipyard Limited, you would find tankers blocking there, so there is no emergency exit at the Apapa port in case of any eventuality and this is causing serious havoc in the whole of Apapa port, the number of tank farms at the dockyard exit is not the best.
Recently, there have been an upsurge in attack on vessels; do you think we need a private arrangement to secure our waters?
Personally, I go against private security on our waters, during the port concession, these were the first issues we raised as a union, the issue of security within the port and nationally, when you hand over the port to private operators, their own aim is just to maximize profit, they would not be concerned about security issues, whatever comes, theirs is to collect money and pass. If you say you are giving the security of the waters to private hands, how are they going to do it? Are they bringing advanced technology more than the existing security is doing? For me I don't support private security on the waterways.
As a union, you must be aware that Warri Port is not thriving and how can we attract cargo to the port?
Warri Port has been operating minimally because they have been receiving vessels, I think the port is being dredged right now, I reliably got that information about the dredging of Warri Port to make it operate minimally, but they have been working, so there was no time that Warri port stopped operating, we have private operators at the port, Intels is there, all others are also there working.
But ships do not go to the port as they should, what can be done to attract activities there?
Yes it is true, for Warri and Calabar, but they have been operating. Attracting vessels to the Warri and Calabar port depends on the shippers, for now I think they are using Lagos as a business centre , in Lagos, it is very easy if an importer brings his cargo, at the point of discharge after leaving the port, immediately the container is taken to a warehouse, you will see some people surrounding the container waiting for what to buy, but if you go to Delta, Cross Rivers and Rivers Ports, it is very rare, but in Lagos you would see a container being unstuffed and you will see people surrounding the container, anything that comes out of the container including the vehicles will be bought, this is why Lagos is congested with containerised cargoes, the market is very high in Lagos. Apart from these, it is very easy to move containers from Lagos to the North by road.
Moving cargoes to Warri and Calabar port depends on the importer, the importer at the point of loading decides where his cargo would go, it is not the authority here receiving the cargo, it is the decision of the importer, but most of them chose Lagos because the high level of market in Lagos.
The Federal Government through the Nigerian Shippers’ Council needs to expedite action on how to take care of the importers. That is why I always look at some individuals within the maritime sector that take the shippers’ council to be just like NPA, they are not operating on the same line, Shippers’ Council was created by an Act of Parliament to facilitate business of the shippers, but people are taking it as a regular agency like NPA and NIMASA.
NPA recently carried out a recruitment exercise, how has this addressed the dearth of junior workers in the agency?
It has not quite addressed the challenge, the top is still heavy, the recruitment does not touch anything like that, it doesn't add anything to the structure of NPA, most of the new intakes are senior staff, so the top is still heavy. The total is not more than 200.
In terms of welfare, as of today, the two house unions, the Senior Staff and the Maritime Workers Union do not have much rancor with management in terms of welfare, the present management has done well in this regard, especially in promotion, right now as I speak with you, promotion letters are being given to eligible staff and officers and this is the third time this present management is conducting this exercise, when a staff is not stagnated, he would feel happy. The management is also looking at the review of condition of service.