A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in cargo evacuation at Nigeria seaports will be enforced according to an announcement by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC).
ThisDay reports that, this disclosure was made by the Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bale during the resumption of cargoes by rail in Lagos.
Mr Bale who was represented by Director, Regulatory Services, NSC, Mrs Ifeoma Ezedinma, said the move is to ensure smooth running of operations with the NRC and APM terminals conforming to the order.
In his words:, “There are many challenges in the port right now due to the shutdown which has resulted to congestion, but with this reintroduction of evacuation by rail, we believe it will go a long way in the port decongestion.
“The rail evacuation will reduce cost, the economy of demand and supply will also come to play as it will give room for our exports which are languishing on the road to gain access to the port.”
Also reacting, Railway District Manager, NRC, Mr. Jerry Oche, stated that the planned implementation of the SOP would work as the shippers’ council will supervise compliance.
“We have been on this for quite some time, but the difference today is that we are starting with an; in the past, all we were doing was that everyone was doing his or her own thing.
“Now we have it binding on everyone and we have shippers’ council as a supervisor; yes, we have done it in the past and I tell you this will work because this is different,” he added.
Speaking further, the district manager said a train comprises of 19 wagons and each of the wagons could take 40ft or 20ft containers.
He noted that if they are doing 40ft it means 19 trucks off the road and if it is 20ft that would take 38 trucks off the road.
Oche noted that APMT had asked them to do four trips but they were commencing with two.
”We want to start small and increase, but we believe we can do more than four trips,” he added.
He stated that adopting the standard gauge would make their operation improve, “and when the standard gauge comes, it would be on auto pilot, a seamless operation driving itself.”
The External Affairs Manager, APM Terminals, Mr. Daniel Odibe, also said it would help bridge communication gap that they had experienced with the system in the past.
“This is an important milestone being achieved here, and it is something we have always asked for, and for receiving trains into the terminal and servicing them.
“It will definitely help in planning, bridge communication gap that we have experienced with the NRC in the past and lead to more efficient operation with more cargo being handled through the rail tracks,” he added.
Odibe applauded the shippers’ council for bringing together the NRC and APM terminals to bridge that communication gap.
“Right now, we have an SOP that will enable us receive the right containers coming to APMT without any hindrance and also enable us services the trains within the agreed timelines.
“We do not envisage more challenges with the commencement of the SOP and it will also create a platform for us to meet, review the past and seek ways to improve.
“What we proposed was for four trains in a day within every 12 hours but the NRC advised we start with two and scale up as we go, assuring us that the process would be sustained,” he said.
Odiba noted that their objective of constructing the rail line in 2013 and connecting it to the national line was to provide alternate mode of evacuation of cargoes to customers while adding that the event would increase the number of containers evacuated through the rail line, as it was coming at the best time, when the bridge was closed for repairs.
Experts are of the view that the impact of the rail lines in cargo evacuations will be felt better with the adoption of the SOP especially with the decongestion of the ports as priority.