The planned simultaneous closure of the Marine Bridge and Wharf Road in Apapa, Lagos from next week will spell doom for the nation’s seaports, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has warned.
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, also said the situation on major roads leading to Apapa port was already bad enough with trucks blocking almost all the access routes.
Dangote Group recently announced plans to close both sides of the Wharf Road, Apapa, just as the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing said it would soon shut the Marine Bridge for major repairs.
The Federal Controller of Works, Lagos, Adedamola Kuti, while speaking in Lagos on Sunday, said Julius Berger Plc, the contractor handling the Marine Bridge repair, was ready to move to the site.
He said the ministry was working on traffic diversion alternatives that would ensure minimal trouble for the road users.
Kuti explained that the bridge was still in use because of an earlier emergency repair work done by Julius Berger to stabilise it.
But STOAN said in a statement on Wednesday that the simultaneous closure of the Wharf Road and the Marine Bridge would lead to a build-up of cargoes within the port and result in port congestion.
The statement, which was signed by its spokesman, Bolaji Akinola, said, “While we commend the efforts of the Federal Government to address the issue of bad roads and the poor state of the bridge, the closure of both roads at about the same time will cause a serious problem to the ports, especially the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa and the Tin Can Island Port.
“The bridge and the Wharf Road are the two major entry points into Apapa and shutting both down will mean cargoes will be trapped inside the port. The implication of this is that there will be a build-up of cargoes at the various terminals and port congestion will inevitably set in. In no time, vessel queues will return and Nigerian ports run the risk of returning to the point where they were prior to the port concession.
“Once vessel queues return, shipping lines congestion surcharge, which could amount to as much as $100m per month could be slammed on Nigerian ports and this cost will ultimately be borne by the market.”
It advised that the repairs should be done one after the other and alternative routes should be opened up by Dangote and Julius Berger before any of the routes could be closed.
“The road remains the major route by which cargoes are evacuated from the port. Failure to create alternative routes before the major repair works are embarked upon will create major crisis in the port,” the statement further said.
STOAN said already, the poor state of the roads, especially the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and ongoing repair works on a section of the Wharf Road, had created major challenges for port operation leading to gridlock.
Yusuf also said if the Wharf Road and Marine Bridge must be closed, security agencies and relevant traffic authorities should come up with ways of minimising the pains that might be caused by the current gridlock.
The National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr. Osita Chukwu, suggested that the Tin Can Island Road be opened up before the closure of the bridge.
“If the bridge is closed without opening up the Tin Can Island Road, there will be chaos,” he said.
The Marine Bridge at Ijora was destroyed by fire in 2012.