Nigeria’s busiest ports of Apapa and Tin-Can both witnessed a slump in container traffic in 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the global economy all through the year, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, revealed during a virtual meeting with maritime journalists, on Monday. This is even as she stated that the eastern ports witnessed an improvement in container traffic, largely due to the 10 per cent rebate introduced by the agency in the middle of 2019.
According to the NPA Managing Director, “In the year 2020, the nation’s busiest port, Apapa port received 632,148teu’s of container traffic compared to 668,672teu’s received in 2019. For the nation’s second-busiest port, Tin-Can Island Port, also in Lagos, 650,365teu’s of container arrived at the port in 2020 compared to 820,942teu’s of containers the previous year.
“For majority of the eastern ports, container traffic increased in 2020 compared to what was received in 2019. For Onne port, 266,109teu’s of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 247,528teu’s in 2019. In Rivers port, 91,971teu’s of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 71,020 in 2019. At Calabar port, 1,561teu’s of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 174 in 2019.
“While the Lagos ports suffered a drop in container volume in 2020, the eastern ports were boosted by the 10 per cent discount offered to shipping lines to patronise the ports in the east. More ships called at the eastern ports compared to what we had in 2020.
“Only Delta port suffered a dip in container traffic in 2020 with 1,224teu’s compared to the 6,827teu’s it recorded in 2019. In total, the number of container traffic that came to Nigerian ports were 1,643,378teu’s compared to the 1,815,163yeu’s received in 2019.
“For a number of vessel calls at the Apapa Port, 986 ships called in 2020 compared to 1,034 vessels in 2019. At Tin-Can ports, 1,127 ships called in 2020 while 1,311 vessels called in 2019. In totality, Nigerian ports received 3,972 ships with a Gross Registered Tonnage of 125,133,912 compared to the 4,251 ships that called in 2019 with a Gross Registered Tonnage of 138,577,463.”
Also speaking on the ETO Call-Up System, the NPA Boss explained that in a bid to ensure smooth operations of the impending Electronic Truck call-up system (Eto) at the ports, shipping companies have been mandated to own and utilize empty container holding bays with capacity for 65 per cent of their annual cargo traffic.
Usman noted that the lack of empty container holding bays by shipping companies was part of the root causes of traffic gridlock in the port environs, as trucks rush into the ports to discharge empties. The NPA boss, however, assured that Eto will deal with the issues around the return of empty containers and loss of container deposits as a result of traffic gridlock.
“All empty containers must be dropped at shipping companies holding bays and at that point importers and their freight agents would access their deposits,” she said.
While she noted that shipping companies are already displaying some degree of push back on Eto, the NPA boss posited that part of the annual registration of shipping lines will be tied to their provision of empty container holding bays.
She said Eto would prioritise reefer containers and export cargoes, stating that an export processing segment has been created at Lilypond.
The NPA boss also appealed to port stakeholders to support the innovative e-truck call-up system, assuring that the Authority would continue to have extensive stakeholders engagement, revealing that eight truck parks have been approved for the electronic truck call-up system.