Senior employees of Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA), under the aegis of NPA Senior Staff Association have called on the government to grant the organisation more powers, especially to regulate the activities of terminal operators.
According to them, granting more powers to NPA will ensure that the terminal operators are checked so as to ensure that the ports are no longer congested with containers. The group also exonerated the organisation from the present congestion which has almost crippled operations in Lagos ports.
Addressing maritime journalists in Lagos last week, the association’s president, Comrade Umar Jimoh explained that linking NPA to the problem is unfortunate and that since the terminals have been concessioned to private terminal operators, NPA no longer has anything to do with cargo handling.
According to him, in the past when minor cases of congestion were noticed, NPA had risen to the occasion and arrested the situation.
The association president however blamed port congestion on a combination of factors including what he referred to as the hurried execution of the concession programme which ought to have taken about 25 years to complete.
They also alleged that the terminal operators do not have sufficient cargo handling equipment and the fact that each of the terminals operates independent of one another; a situation that did not exist when NPA was in charge of port operations.
Other reasons which the group fingered for congestion are: poor space management on the part of the terminal operators, the failure of destination inspection scheme to facilitate goods clearance from the port and the age long presence of many government agencies in the ports.
Apart form giving NPA wide powers to monitor activities of terminal operators, the organisation’s senior employees also called for the purchase of more cargo handling equipment, while Customs and shipping companies and Customs should work round the clock to clear the back log.
They also called for the reduction in the number of security agencies in the ports even as they called for an end to then practice of stacking empty containers within the ports.
The association however suggested that in the long run, it would be proper for the government to establish dry ports in all strategic parts of the country alleging that the ones that are presently being constructed have been politicised.
According to them, it is also important that the government takes a serious look at the persistent calls for the adoption of intermodalism so that the ports can be linked to the rail lines.