SHIPPERS have listed shallow draught, market size and illegal checkpoints as reasons why shippers will not allow Lagos bound goods to be diverted to the Port Harcourt port or any other eastern ports.
Addressing newsmen over the weekend in Lagos, Chairman, Shippers’ Association Lagos State (SALS) Reverend Jonathan Nicol said that people calling for the use of eastern ports don’t really know the problem in Port-Harcourt, as according to him, the draught in the port was not as deep as Lagos ports and that the market itself was not the size of Lagos.
Nicol argued that should any shipper clear his cargo at the eastern ports, the shipper may not have the kind of market that he will have in Lagos to dispense his goods at a reasonable time and make a turn-over, adding that the cost of moving goods from Port-Harcourt to Lagos was higher than that of moving goods from Lagos to Port-Harcourt.
In his words,” It’s is cheaper for you to clear in Lagos than for you to clear in Port-Harcourt. First, the checkpoints along Port-Harcourt roads are ten times more than what you have from here to Port-Harcourt.
From Port-Harcourt to Aba, for instance, you can get more than twenty checkpoints from different government agencies and for each checkpoint, you pay the toll.
“So, when shippers now compute how much they spend having cleared their goods in Port Harcourt ports, they find that it is more than 60 per cent cheaper to clear from Lagos. If they clear from Lagos, they can do away with those goods in less than three to four days because of readily available markets at Alaba International and Trade Fair Complex.
It is the number of trips that the shippers make that determines his profit; it’s not a one-off shipment that makes you rich”.
He insisted that if the federal government as a matter of policy diverts all the goods to eastern ports, there would be a serious lull even as he added that some people could as a result; decide to go to import goods through Cotonou as it is nearer to Lagos than going to Port-Harcourt.
On the way forward, the SALS boss stated,” Like I said, people are coming together now to discuss and that is the major thing. All of us have agreed now to come together and we are now proffering solutions at different levels how we can solve this problem (gridlock).
That’s the beginning of finding the solution. It’s not going to be forever because it’s a man-made thing.
“What we need NPA to do now is for them to be a little bit flexible with us unlike before when the whole problems were on the heads of the shipping companies and terminal operators.