As evacuation of cargoes by rail resumed at Apapa Port in Lagos, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has begun implementation of a new Standard Operations Procedure to ensure a smooth operation
According to NSC, evacuation of containers by rail from the Lagos ports would ease the congested ports.
Already, vessel waiting time at any of the two major seaports in Nigeria has reached 50 days due to severe congestion.
Executive Secretary of NSC,Hassan Bello, said cargo evacuation by rail could halve the cost of transportation and improve the economy of demand and supply.
However, to ensure that things move smoothly, the Nigeria Railway Corporation and the port concessionaires would have to adhere to the SOP, said Bello who was represented by the Director, Regulatory Services, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, IfeomaEzedinma, at a brief event to mark the resumption of evacuation of cargoes by rail at Lagos seaports.
“There are many challenges in the port right now due to the shutdown which has resulted to congestion, but this reintroduction of evacuation by rail, we believe, will go a long way in the port decongestion.
“The rail evacuation will reduce cost. The economy of demand and supply will also come to play, as it will give room for our exports which are languishing on the road to gain access to the port,” Bello said.
Railway District Manager, Lagos, Jerry Oche, said the new agreement for the evacuation of cargoes would work because the SOP was binding on everyone and the shippers’ council was standing as the supervisor.
“We have been on this for quite sometime, but the difference today is that we are starting with an SOP; in the past, all we were doing was that everyone was doing his or her own thing.
“Now we have an SOP binding on everyone and we have a shippers’ council as a supervisor; yes, we have done it in the past and I tell you this will work because this is different,” he said.
The district manager said that a train was made up of 19 wagons and each of the wagons could take 40ft or 20ft container.
According to him, if they are doing 40ft, it means 19 trucks off the road; and if it is 20ft, that would take 38 trucks off the road.
Oche said that APMTerminals had urged them to do four trips, but they were starting with two.
”We want to start small and increase, but we believe we can do more than four trips,” he said.
He added that adopting the standard gauge would improve their operation, and when the standard gauge comes, the SOP would be on autopilot, a seamless operation driving itself.
Manager, External Affairs, APM terminals, Daniel Odibe, said the new SOP would help bridge communication gap that they had experienced with NRC in the past.
“This is an important milestone being achieved here, and it is something we have always asked for; an SOP for receiving trains into the terminal and servicing them.
“It will definitely help in planning, bridge communication gap that we have experienced with NRC in the past and lead to more efficient operation with more cargo being handled through the rail tracks,” he said.
Odibe commended the shippers’ council for bringing together the NRC and APMT to bridge that communication gap.
“Right now, we have an SOP that will enable us receive the right containers coming to APMT without any hindrance and also enable us service the trains within the agreed timelines.
“We do not envisage more challenges with the commencement of the SOP and it will also create a platform for us to meet, review the past and seek ways to improve.
“What we proposed was for four trains in a day within every 12 hours, but NRC advised we start with two and scale up as we go, assuring us that the process would be sustained,” he said.