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Port infrastructure inadequate to meet demand of port users — Report    

Freight Forwarders spoil for war with terminal operators over demurrage waivers.

Peter Olaniyi    |   

The existing infrastructures in Nigerian ports are inadequate to meet the demand of port users, a new report by the Africa CEO Forum and Okan Partners has stated.

The report warned that Lagos port was on the verge of reaching its capacity limit as users were battling with costly congestion issues.

The report titled ‘Africa’s ports: Fast-tracking transformation’ identified other ports with congestion issues in Africa as Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Cape Town ports.

Analysts said failure to consider the growth in demand and attract investment could worsen the situation.

The report said, “Eighty per cent of Africa’s external trade moves through ports. What is more, volumes have increased significantly over the past two decades, with containerised port traffic rising six-fold between 2001 and 2017.

“Despite this swift development, major challenges will need to be addressed to modernise Africa’s ports.

“Surrounding areas and hinterlands are generally poorly connected to African ports. The poor quality or lack of inland logistics\infrastructure (e.g., roads and railways) can thus delay, or even block, incoming and outgoing traffic.”

Analysts noted that ports in Nigeria and other African countries were generally inefficient in terms of ship entry/exit, ship loading/unloading and cargo dwell time in the port.

As a result, they said the volumes processed per hour were hardly in line with top international standards, with 29 TEU per hour at Pointe-Noire and 55 TEU per hour at Durban, compared with 80 at Rotterdam.

In addition, they said stakeholders were not encouraged to quickly clear out cargo, which led to long dwell times.

In Lagos ports, the report said 35TEU were processed in one hour and an average of 22 hours dwell time for containers in Apapa.

“Operations are also more expensive to run, as management, storage and local delivery fees in Africa cost up to six times more than in Europe’s ports. This lack of competitiveness is an additional obstacle to the continent’s integration into the global economy,” the African CEO Forum report stated.

To address the challenges, analysts advised African governments to invest wisely and avoid notorious ‘white elephants’.

Before rushing into developing major costly projects, they urged African countries to first clearly define the aim of their port projects.

This, according to them, is because not all of the port development projects in the works will be able to serve as trans-shipment hubs.

Commenting on port development efforts in Africa, the Chief Executive Officer, A.P. Møller Capital, Kim Fejfer, said large but properly dimensioned investments must be made to modernise and adapt wharves at Africa’s ports.

“Such investments are best made via public-private partnerships, which African  public authorities have gotten a better handle on over time,” he said.

According to Fejfer, the improvement of operating procedures, the coordination of players and the growing use of technology should help reduce operational inefficiencies that continue to be widespread on the continent.

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