Evacuating and the timely delivery of cargoes has been an endemic plight that has over the years proven to be insurmountable. The heavy traffic congestion this ugly development has elicited has resulted in the countless loss of lives and properties. Not just that, the African Centre for Supply Chain (ACSC) practitioners had once revealed that gridlock at the Nigerian ports was negatively affecting Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) and that the country loses $14.2 billion to the challenge annually.
The government of Nigeria has tried to intervene countless times but seems not to be able to put an end to this challenge, even with the newly introduced electronic call-up system which was initiated to put an end to the Apapa gridlock has also been frustrated by selfish stakeholders.
However, the barge operation and the resuscitation of the railway in Nigeria will eventually put an end to this endemic challenge if well engaged. 60% of the dock space of most terminal operators is empty containers and export containers that are intended to be loaded onto the ship. Barges are helping in no small measure in offloading cargos from ships, ferrying them through the inland waterways to more convenient places where they can later be transported to desired destinations through trucks. Barge operation is indeed a cost-effective way of moving cargoes for ship operators in Nigeria.
There also can never be an effective clearance of cargo or trade facilitation without the input of the railway sector in facilitating importation and exportation of goods to and fro the seaports. Rail facilities were very active and efficient in the 70s and 80s but negligence led to the collapse of the sector. Thankfully, the current administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has risen to the occasion by connecting the Lagos-Ibadan rail line with the Apapa port with a total length of 8.72km. The port of Apapa handles the majority of incoming cargo into Nigeria and accounts for around 39 per cent of all incoming cargo. It is followed by the ports of Tin Can Island and Delta with 31 and 11 per cent respectively. The port of Calabar represents 4.29 per cent.
Now, the logistics of cargoes in and out of the port is being facilitated by the rail which is gradually decongesting the traffic in Apapa, bringing back the beauty of the port environment. However, the Nigerian government needs to extend the railway network so as to connect the northern and southern corridors of the country for easy transition of cargoes.
With an effective rail network and barge operation, traffic congestions along Nigerian ports will turn history. Other advantages of these two solutions in evacuating cargoes at the ports are that the Nigerian roads will last longer because of fewer heavy-duty vehicles delivering containers to different parts of the country. Also, there will be a drastic decrease in the cost of commodities in the country because barge and rail services are way cheaper than truck services. Extra costs incurred by freight forwarding companies and procurement officers as a result of delays in moving their cargoes will no longer be there, thereby resulting in a fall in price of goods and services.