By Oluwabunmi Ogunjimi
Amidst the sustained traffic crises around the Lagos ports axis, a fast growing barge transportation services now are taking advantage of the situation to escalate the cost of cargo clearance. The operators are also said to be undermining safety of the waterways along the sea port axis.
Consequently, sea ports regulatory authorities are planning to intervene in the operations of barge services providers.
It was also learnt that usage of the barge operators now cost as much as N250,000, up from about N150, 000, to move a container laden truck from Mile-2 jetty to the container terminals at Apapa. This is in addition to other charges along the process of delivering the containers to and from the terminals.
It is further learnt that the barging business has become so lucrative that operators in this sub-sector work every day of the week and even violate the ban on night movements on Lagos waters, a development that has undermined the safety rules of the Nigerian Inland Waterway Authority, NIWA.
Confirming the development, Mr Akin Ayobami, General Manager, Iza Kiazou Nigeria Limied, a haulage firm, said that truck owners had to resort to the use of barges to move containers into terminals because of the Apapa traffic situation.
He also confirmed that N250,000 is what barge operators now collect from truck owners before they are loaded onto the barge for onward movement to the terminal.
Ayobami who owns trucks explained that truckers opted for the use of barges due to the endless wait on the roads that could take up to a month before a truck can go in and out of a terminal.
He stated that with the option of barging, a trucker can do between two and four round trips in one day.
He said: “To barge to ENL terminal and cross over to A. P.Moller terminal is N250,000, and this is due to what we experience on the road because we do not even understand what is going on that road anymore, what we experience on the road with regards to Police extortion; the government need to intervene.
‘‘The delay we also experience at the APMT is another reason for the use of barge because even when we get to the gate of APMT, they will not allow truck entrance.
“We could be at the gate of the terminal for days and as these delays occur, import and export trade cannot flow. ‘‘The government needs to intervene and if they do not intervene the system will keep getting worse than it is now.
“Even at the terminal, we have to pay before we are allowed to discharge our trucks from the barges because we pay for access point.”
He disclosed that demurrages are also paid on the barges if the barges are allowed to discharge adding that N200, 000 is charged daily for the delay of the barge.
“There was a time our barge was on the water for good 19 days and we paid about N3.8million as demurrage. If the roads were okay we will not be barging.”
Ayobami also said that the introduction of barging in port operation will, no doubt, add to the cost of cargo clearance from the port adding that before barging was introduce the cost of haulage has increased by more than 200 hundred percent.
But speaking on the situation, the President, National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, Mr. Inuwa Abdullahi, told Sweetcudereports, that the charge is not as high as being claimed by truck owners.
Abdullahi said that what is charged is usually between N180,000 and N200, 000 adding that because most of these truck owners go through middlemen to move their trucks to the terminal, they pay exorbitant fee for barging.
Reacting to the development, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello said that there are moves to regulate the activities of barge operators adding that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has come up with a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, for barge operations.
Bello also disclosed that the Council is planning its own SOP for barge operations, adding that their pricing must be regulated.
He stated: “The Nigerian Ports Authority has issued a draft Standard Operating Procedure for barge operations. A lot of things have to be regulated and these include the quality of the barge, the capacity and the issue of insurance.
“The condition for carriage is also being looked into and off course Shippers Council is interested in the cost of moving containers into the terminals.
“In two weeks time, we may come with a Standard Operating Procedure that everybody will abide with. It is good that we have barges moving forth and back; but then it has to be regulated.”