Holding Bay in Apapa Port

Maersk shipping company has enumerated several reasons why it considers the policy of holding bay for containers a counterproductive initiative which is hurting the Nigerian maritime sector the more.

The global shipping giant has, therefore, warned that continued implementation of these negative policy by the Nigeria Port Authority NPA and the Nigerian Shippers Council NSC will lead to increase in shipping cost to importers as the shipping companies will be forced to transfer the cost of delay and frustration to importers.

Maersk line Marine Operations Manager in Lagos Kikelomo Abiola Cudjoe while speaking in a meeting in Lagos highlighted the disadvantages of shipping companies operating holding bays. She explained that holding bay, where empty containers are kept pending when they are taken to the terminal by shipping companies, will affect port operations and cause traffic gridlock into and around the Apapa and Tin can ports and environs.

Tincan Port Terminal

One of the disadvantages of the holding bay is that it would cause congestion in the port thereby defeating the effort made to decongest the ports. Also holding bay operations would result in ships going back from Nigeria ports with fewer empty containers resulting in an extra cost to the shipping companies.

According to Cudjoe “Talking about the cost to the shipping lines we were asked to return the empty containers to the holding bay. Nobody is talking about who will cover the cost of shunting and the cost of returning the containers back to the terminals. We have made it known to the authorities and the Shippers Council that this is a cost which will be eventually passed to the customer”

“It is not also in our best interest because everybody understands the condition in Nigeria and the economy. What I am really saying is that this policy will hit the customers really badly” She added.

Continuing, Cudjoe stated “if you look at it prior to now before this policy was implemented a trucker would simply go inside and come out with a container, but now there is going to be many stops. You go from the terminal to the customer’s yard from there back to the holding bay and from the holding bay to the terminals. There are so many different movements and that’s in itself creating congestion on the road. This policy will very likely compound the problem we are trying to avoid.

The truck drivers and their owners were also hammered by Cudjoe as the ultimate beneficiaries of this arrangement. Revealing, that a trucker prefers to take an empty container into the port from where he queues up to get another customer.

Other worrisome disadvantages of implementing the holding bay policy observed Cudjoe is that it will result in the shortage of truck availability to pick up cargoes in the port. “Already it is a pressured market and since this directive started in February this year we have not seen an increase in containers being returned to the holding bay.

Roro Port, Lagos

Cudjoe explained further that “when we talked about the shortage of trucks if this policy is forced to go ahead we will see a lot of pressure. We are already seeing that there would be an increase in demand and it would lead to an increase in cost”.

“There is the likelihood that ships would be sailing out light because not all containers would be at the port. This is also because we do not have a firm mechanism in place to coordinate between the terminals and the shipping companies to ensure we have sufficient containers at the port as at the time the vessel is around”