Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Intermodal Services Set to Improve as Rail Freight Link Reopens for Shipping Containers

Decades of Underinvestment are Slowly being Reversed
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – Every week it seems the traffic queues of trucks laden with shipping containers leading to the ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island get worse, and a recent press report described a litany of problems which cause and amplify the problems. Now it seems a small ray of hope might be seen with the announcement that the APM terminal in the port of Apapa, one of the institutions most criticised by locals, is to recommence intermodal rail freight services to despatch inbound containers to the inland clearance facilities at Kaduna and Kano operated by Inland Container Nigeria Ltd (ICNL).

The traffic problems are manifold and include lack of parking for trucks and storage space for shipping containers, poor infrastructure with rutted roads resulting in slow transit, ‘snail speed offloading’ and the sheer volume of trucks which block the highways. The container lorries share the surrounding roads with the tankers which call at the ‘petrol farms’ which proliferate in the area making motorists abandon their cars after extreme delays.

Now an extension of intermodal services will see the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) commence a service scheduled to carry the boxes north at an initial rate of up to forty containers per train, three times a week. The APM facility in Apapa is the largest container handling point in West Africa and demurrage for the delays at the port is passed on down the supply chain, inflating point of sale prices.

Both freight and passenger rail services in Nigeria had sunk to desperate levels over the past three or four decades but with an influx of Chinese investment and government intervention things are beginning to gradually improve. For a passenger’s view of what’s available this FT Video gives an interesting insight into how things are progressing.