Nigeria’s Ports and COVID-19 – A Brief Review of Measures to Tame the Pandemic(Part 1)

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the activities of many businesses and logistics management has not been left out of.  Two of the largest six seaports (sea and land) in Nigeria both located in Lagos State which are the Lagos Port Complex, also referred to as Premiere Port (Apapa Quays) and the Tin-Can Island Port are facing congestion because consignees and their agents have left their cargoes unattended to. This is causing a major issue at the Ports because there is a shortage of port space to accommodate the loading and unloading of shipments. The Lagos Port Complex which is the largest Port and serves as one of the busiest ports in Nigeria has a container handling capacity of 3.9 million TEU and quay length of 2,537 metres while the Tin-Can Island Port has a container handling capacity of 3.8 million TEU and a quay length of 3,396 metres. The latest operational data report by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) shows that the average number of vessels that arrive the Nigerian Ports are about 4,213 with a gross tonnage of 131,248,291; of this number it is estimated that the vessel and container traffic consists of 1,253 vessels and 344,521 containers.

While the ports will be working to support the government’s effort at curtailing the spread of COVID-19, there is a dire need to allow full movement of cargoes across the country, to ensure port operations are not hampered.

All terminals at the two ports in Lagos are 90%-95% full. Most of the cargoes consist of non-essential commodities. If the cargoes don’t leave the ports within days, there will be no space in the terminals to discharge other cargoes thus preventing the cargoes with essential commodities which consist of food and medical equipments to discharge their items which is crucial at this period.

Mr. Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has recently urged clearing agents to take advantage of the lockdown in Lagos State to take delivery of their consignments to avoid congestion at the ports. He stated that the seaports must remain operational for the exit of cargoes especially raw and relief materials. Authorities are being given orders to make sure cargoes are allowed to move freely and cargoes should not be subjected to interstate restrictions. Certain essential commodities and medical equipment among others are needed to move especially at this period. Circulars have been sent out to ensure that port operations are kept active and the ports are moving despite the difficulties arising from COVID-19. The NSC is trying as much as possible to see that ports operate as usual by providing transportation to some agents and freight forwarders so that they can commute easily to and from the ports and carry on business transactions.

It is important that the government finds a balance in ensuring the safety of the citizens whilst keeping the economy stable. The ports serve as a major revenue source for Nigeria; revenue that is more needed now.

What is the way forward for logistics management in the COVID-19 times?

Logistics management is a very essential part of various businesses and cannot be ignored at this point.

All essential parties in the logistics value chain cannot be confined at home. Granted that there may be a slowdown in the volume of goods entering Nigeria, the players in this value chain, especially for essential goods and supplies, are in themselves essential workers. 

However and to ensure the safety of freight forwarders and all other service providers in the logistics value chain, a significant part of their operations that can be undertaken online should be so done.

Online transactions apparently reduce physical contacts, thus in tandem with the current social distancing culture advocated by the World Health Organisation.

In the event that transactions need to be made physically, open space policies should be implemented to ensure orderliness. Even at that, only those on appointments, apparently earlier booked and granted online, should be at those open spaces. While we aim to practice social distancing in maintaining orderly queues, an appointment must be booked ahead and approved before approaching an office. 

Sitting positions should be planned in order to maintain the 1 metre rule on social distancing. Logically it doesn’t make sense not to observe social distancing outside the gate and then go into an office to maintain social distancing. A stipulated average time should be used per person on a task. Efficiency is the new name of the game. Also, provisions should be made for the advised hand sanitisers, gloves and facial masks. Truck drivers may need to stay in their trucks with their assistants while their representatives stay at the entry to process relevant documents.

At this point in time all port-related logistics across all functions and its valid fields should be treated as a priority. To ensure a smooth process, the task force can grant permits or an approval to get a permit as an evidence to be allowed in the ports and on Nigerian roads. NSC and logistics companies must ensure that all their relevant workers have permits to work at the ports and the relevant roads at this time.

How can I ensure premium shipping and logistics management during this COVID-19 period?

TGL is a logistics management company whose vision is to redefine the concept of service delivery in the logistics business primarily in Nigeria and Africa.

With a team of over 50 years’ combined experience in freight forwarding, out-country and in-country logistics, compliance/documentation and core technology services, we bring to the table a firm promise to provide a reliable platform for end-to-end logistics solutions for B2B and B2C businesses.

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Phone Number: +234 903 062 2243

Address: 68 Molade Okoya Thomas Street, Off Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos

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