From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
To forestall an incalculable disaster, the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, has urged the Federal Government to relocate the petroleum depots (tank farms) from Apapa in Lagos.
Speaking against the backdrop of the March 15 explosion at Abule Ado, which claimed 23 lives and displaced over 500 people, beside billions of naira lost in property, Haastrup called for urgent steps to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe by moving tank farms from residential and crowded areas.
“We are concerned about the preponderance of tank farms in Apapa, which is a port area and a high density town,” she said. “With over 60 tank farms operating in the area, the ports, the workers and residents of Apapa are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
“We pray it does not explode, so we appeal to the Federal Government to urgently see to the relocation of these tank farms to avert a future carnage.”
Haastrup regretted that in addition to bad roads and the absence of truck parks in Apapa, the many tank farms and oil depots have contributed to traffic congestion in the area.
According to her, “tank farms should normally be located several miles away from the city and from the port area for safety reasons.”
She further called for more efficient traffic management system in Apapa to enhance vehicular movement while ongoing construction work lasts, just as the Federal Ministry of Works and the Lagos State Government should open up inner roads for free flow of traffic.
The STOAN chairman also advised the Nigeria Customs Service to concentrate more on trade facilitation than revenue generation in order to clear congestion at the ports.
Likewise, she sought the streamlining of government agencies at the ports and reduction of congestion at the port gates arising from multiple checks by various government agencies.
“We observed that the volume of containers handled at the ports has continued on geometric growth while the supporting port infrastructures, especially the port access and customs clearing processes, have remained a drag on the efficiency of the ports.
“Since the first quarter of 2019 into the first quarter of this year, volumes have been growing by 20 per cent as a result of the closure of Nigeria’s land borders.
“The unanticipated growth has posed a major challenge to container terminal operators. As a result, we advise that the Nigeria Customs Service automates its clearing and cargo release system to clear the backlog of cargoes at the port.
“The scanners at the port are not working, while almost all the cargoes landed at our ports are subjected to 100 per cent physical examination.
“In Lagos ports, up to 70 per cent of the containers are subjected to physical examination. These have to change to allow for free flow of trade.”