Monday, July 23, 2018

Port Problems Continue After Two Major Container Lines Banned

As Two Week Suspension Ends the Threat of More Delays Appear
Shipping News Feature
NIGERIA – The problems within the country's ports which we reported on in June and earlier this month seem set to continue in yet another form. The continued blockages of the approach roads to and from Apapa continue as industrial action causes delays with lorries crammed around the port entrances and promises from authority that police will be deployed to clear the illegally parked vehicles. In other news the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) suspended and latterly permitted, with conditions, the operations of two major container shipping lines whom they blame for much of the problem.

The day after the world’s biggest box carrier, Maersk Line, imposed limited peak season surcharges on cargo from Tin Can Island and Apapa Port the company was informed that, along with Cosco Shipping and agencies Africa Port Services and Lagos & Niger Shipping Agencies, their inability to supply sufficient space within their properties to hold empty containers was the prime cause of the problems.

Maersk Nigeria, whilst tacitly admitting empty containers were a problem when the 10 day ban on the company was introduced on July 14, issued a statement saying:

”With limited infrastructure and other alternatives for evacuation of imports, return of empties, and return of full exports, it is challenging for these containers to be adequately handled, which results in the congestion of the access roads. However it is misguided for the NPA to suspend Maersk Nigeria Limited for failing to acquire and operate holding bays for empty containers, as Maersk Nigeria Limited operates four holding bays within the Lagos environ with a storage capacity of 8,150 TEUs, which is more than 50% of the discharge average.”

These facts were apparently disputed by the NPA who said an audit in February showed the company had only two holding bays with a total capacity of 1400 TEUs, 1000 at the Unity Bond Terminal and a further 400 at its PMS (HBX) holding bay at Apapa.

For Maersk alone apparently the troubles have affected the operations of nineteen vessels saying there would be problems with cargo bound for discharge at Tin Can, Onne and Apapa and, with feelings running high, and the ongoing claims and counterclaims, it seems things are likely to be messy for a while. Although today the suspension on all four companies has been lifted, the NPA has warned of further action if its demands are not met.

These include the companies involved increasing the capacity of their Holding Bays ranging from 1,800 TEUs to 7,500 TEUs within two weeks. At this time they must verify this capacity and the NPA will conduct inspections to confirm they have fully complied and these conditions were conveyed to all parties by letter on Friday July 20.