Interview: How govt can create cargo marshalling area in Apapa-- Capt. Iheanacho

Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, Chairman Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd.

Government may have to consider creating a cargo marshalling area in Apapa, as a dynamic approach to addressing the perennial traffic gridlock that locks down business-hours. Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd., as well as of Genesis Shipping Worldwide, suggested this recently in an interview on the sidelines of a transport summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration, Nigeria.  
Iheanacho said that with the increasing volume of trade and the limited capacity of facilities like the access roads within the port city of Apapa, the government could buy off dilapidated buildings by the waterside of Apapa and knock them down for large  space to build the marshalling area. He added that it was very business unfriendly for trucks to spend as much as 10 hours trying to make their way into the port from Ikorodu road, a mere distance of about 34 kilometres. He believes that working smart would give better results to government’s efforts at solving the problem. He shared his thoughts on other issues including how indigenous shipowners can participate in shipping services for the nation’s oil trade.

On the present situation around the port?
You see that capacity is inadequate in relation to the demand. Capacity of vessels that are calling to the ports, capacity of the roads where the vessels will pass through. What changes have you seen in the road structure in Lagos hinterlands in so many years? You see creek road, has it been expanded or has any other road been built?
You see all those roads and obsolete buildings that are at the waterside. Is it not easy for government to buy them and knock them down and turn them into marshalling areas for cargo? Does it not make sense?  What we advocate is dynamism. You have to think about it. Not sitting down there. How long does it take for a lorry to travel from Ikorodu road into the ports? Some say it is more than 10 days. It is not acceptable. The government is trying very hard by deploying the military and a lot of resources to try and clear the road. But, we think it takes more than the effects of people marshalling the traffic. It really requires an expansion and a redesign of the port hinterland.

What about the under-utilised ports?
Burutu, Warri that you mentioned are not mainline ports. Those are estuarial ports. I am talking about deep-sea ports, as in Lagos (Tin-Can Island and Apapa Ports), Port Harcourt.
Look at what has been happening since we found oil, 1959, the revenue base has been growing, they have been continuously exporting oil and they have been spending that resources to buying imported goods. We haven’t seen that it is important to increase the size of the port that is available. But remember that we can increase the size of the port for our own use, as well as to serve the requirements of inland countries like Chad and Niger. So, when you start off and you say, for a country that has unutilised ports and ports that are idle, then I think you are starting from a preconceived notion. Clear your mind and look at the size of the port that can serve the size of Nigeria’s trade. And the demand factor that you look at is the demand for the underlying trade. What was the volume of trade in 1959, in 1969, the 70s? Then, draw up a line and see. Is it growing? If the trade has doubled, you would naturally expect to have twice the size of ports that you had in the beginning.

Carriage of oil by FOB?
The way out is very simple. NNPC is Nigerian, those who are advocating to participate in the oil trade, in terms of providing shipping services for carrying the oil are Nigerians. There is nothing difficult in calling a meeting where everybody can come and say their piece. Those Nigerians who think that they have the capacity to provide the shipping services will say it. If NNPC has any contrary opinion, they will say it. We should call a round table to discuss this issue. It is important that we should be adding value to our trade, with the oil trade for instance, if I now advocate that Nigeria be involved in the liner trade be done. But, it is much more complex, takes a lot more resources and the risks are higher, because the cost of running a liner service are fixed. And if you get it wrong, then you are going to lose a lot.

Investment in terms of shipping and ports?
I have given practical suggestions in the context of the lecture. I actually even mention a number of places that I think you can put ports at. I talked about Badagry, Ikot-Abasi, and then Ibaka. I talked about Tomaro Port, it is an inland port, which is a private sector initiative. We have got to marshal everything; private sector, government. And government’s job is to create the enabling environment and to encourage the private sector investors in what they are doing.
Crude affreightment: When the NNPC refloated the NIDAS shipping last year, a lot of expectation was that it would lead to more indigenous participation.
How would that happen? You said it yourself that NNPC resuscitated NIDAS shipping. That means NNPC owns NIDAS. It is contrary to what we are advocating. We are advocating private-sector involvement rather than government-involvement in what private sector are better to do. If NIDAS shipping arises, then some of the private sector shipping concerns that have already taken root will fall down. And that is not what we want.  Government should provide an enabling environment, encouragement and support and allow the private sector, and free competition to drive the growth of the industry and the economy.

Capt. Iheanacho's contribution aims for a dynamic approach to matching and managing resources for optimal results to the benefit of all stakeholders operating in the industry as well for the nation's economy.