Poor rail lines, roads threaten dry port operations

The Inland Container Depots, also known as dry ports or freight stations established by the Federal Government in areas where there is no quick access to seaport, are facing a major challenge owing to poor state of infrastructure in the country.

An Inland dry port is an equivalent of a seaport located in the hinterland. It receives containers by rail or road from the seaport for examination and clearance by the Customs and other competent authorities. It has all the loading and off-loading equipment needed to handle containers.

According to the Nigerian Shippers Council, six locations have been approved for the ICDs/CFSs, which were given through concession to private sector operators by the ICD Implementation Committee of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

They are found in Isiala Ngwa, Aba, Erunmu, Ibadan, Heipang, Jos, Zawachiki, Kano, Zamfarawa, Funtua, Jauri and Maiduguri.

In addition to these six, the Kaduna ICD was recently inaugurated by the NSC and set for operations, according to the council.

The Kaduna Area Officer of the NSC, Bala Adamu, said in May that the manifest for cargoes destined for the ICD Kaduna would read ‘Lagos/Kaduna’, meaning that such cargoes would first land in the Lagos port from where they would be moved to the Kaduna ICD without examination.

He further informed that the goods would be moved to Kaduna by road or rail, depending on which was available.

Stakeholders have however expressed concerns about the lack of functional rail lines linking the ICDs to the ports and the poor and deplorable state of the roads in the country.

They also observed that none of the dry ports was linked by rail to the Lagos port.

For the ICDs to succeed, the President of the Shippers Association Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said the government had to provide every necessary infrastructure, including good rail and road network.

Nicole said, “Our rail system from Apapa port and Tin Can Island Port must be operational. It is a starting point for the ICD unless we want to move those containers, which do not make sense to me, by road and you are not bringing them to another terminal. It will be very expensive to do so.

“The ICDs are set up when you have a workable railway system and that is what I will advise the government to do, especially in Apapa (Lagos) where we have railway facility, it must be workable. Once it is workable, then, your ICD will succeed; but in the absence of that, there will be bottlenecks here and there.”

Responding, a former President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, Eugene Nweke, told our correspondent that freight wagons were expected to arrive in Nigeria later in the year.

He said while waiting for them, cargoes would be moved to the dry ports by road and the government was committed to providing adequate security for them.

He added that terminal operators were working hand in hand with container carrying companies to supply empty containers to the dry ports so that cargoes could be loaded before being transported to the Lagos port for shipment.

“The dry ports are being designated for export and import of agro produce. They are also designated as Inland Depot Empty Container Centres where empty containers can be supplied for people to load their produce directly, instead of going to Lagos to get empty containers to load before taking them back to Lagos for shipment,” he said.

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