IN a bid to ease the traffic gridlock in and around Apapa port and its environs, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has issued fresh operational licences to barge operators to evacuate cargoes by waterways from Nigerian ports.
Confirming the development, Adams Jatto, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication of the NPA said that the issuance of operational licenses to barge operators is for operators that want to remain in business.
Jatto also said that the fee for the issue of barging licences remain N100,000 adding that operators must back up their application with a bank bond of N50million.
Vanguard Maritime Report learnt that the barge operators are already besieging the banks for the bonds.
Speaking on the developments, President of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria, BOAN, Mr. Kelikume Edeme, said that the association would work with the NPA to curb proliferation of illegal operators in the business.
Edeme, however, lamented the absence of a container holding bays as one of the greatest challenges confronting barge operators.
He also expressed concern over the number of days barges spend at the terminal in their quest to evacuate containers at port terminals, adding that this has led to additional operational costs.
He stated: “Proliferation is a serious issue that we are all working on. The NPA released a new round of licences about two weeks ago. Based on these new licences, we are going to start engaging again and we are going to work with the regulator to address these issues.
“The challenges are basically the waiting time at the terminals, the biggest challenge the maritime industry is facing today is empty containers, the shipping lines are taking advantage of the situation; the importers and transporters are being made to pay heavily; there are no facilities where you can drop empty containers after offloading the imports, this is a big problem.
“The ports are not receiving empty containers; you offload the cargoes but there is nowhere to drop the empty containers and yet they charge you demurrage on these empty containers. For barge operators, sometimes you move your barge to the terminals and you can spend four days, and you are paying daily cost for this equipment that you hired or owned; who pays for the downtime?”
Edeme explained that prices of hiring a barge is dependent on market forces and that it is market-driven, explaining that if the price for barge is high, people will go and use the truck.
He stated: ”Right now the price of barges is the same across board; there is nobody that would charge anything higher; there might come a time when prices would increase, the barge and the truck prices would be increased, but for now, everything is low.”
The BOAN president also confirmed that evacuation of overtime cargoes has commenced at Nigerian ports, adding that the process is currently going smoothly. “The evacuation of cargoes from the port is going smoothly, the overtime cargoes at APMT have been computed, the one at PTML has also been done, currently we are working on the overtime cargoes at Ports and Cargo Terminal”, he said.