SIFAX Group yesterday commissioned a new container terminal at the Ijora Causeway, Lagos. The event which attracted major stakeholders in the maritime community as well as the host community was not only a testimony to the success story of the company in its 32 years of existence, but also a modest response to Apapa traffic concerns, reports Sylvanus Obasi of Platform Reporters.
Speaking in a welcome Address, the Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group, Mr. Adekunle Oyinloye noted that the SIFAX Container terminal was the company’s modest response to a major concern in the maritime industry which is access to Lagos ports.
Oyinloye observed that the logistics nightmare in Apapa occasioned by the traffic congestion experienced by port users compelled the group to look for a creative solution that addresses this seemingly intractable problem.
He noted that the terminal which is located along the Ebute Metta creek held a number of opportunities for shippers, agents and consignees as their consignments could be transferred through barge from any of the ports; Apapa and Tincan to the facility without the challenge of traffic congestion.
According to him, “The good road network around Ijora and its easier access to every part of Lagos make this terminal the one to beat in terms of faster and efficient cargo clearance. Another key advantage of the terminal is that it will be IT driven. The company has decidedly invested in technology to drive the business to the satisfaction of the clients.”
He therefore appealed to all the company’s stakeholders, regulatory agencies, shippers, agents, consignees and the media to partner with the company in a bid to make the vision of the terminal which is an efficient and well run inland container depot that puts the client at the core of its business a reality.
On his part, the Managing Director of the SIFAX Container Terminal, Ijora Cuaseway, Mr. Paul VdLinden disclosed that the company was opening the first phase of the terminal sitting on roughly 15,000 square meters with part of it hosting office blocks, control tower and then offices done with containers.
VdLinden equally added that the new terminal was also hosting the Nigeria Customs Service, its own staff, all the external agencies, a Mosque, a Church, a canteen and a Clinic.
Who recalling the long delays associated with getting containers out of Apapa and Tincan Island ports and the cost of delivering such containers to the various customers, the Managing Director stated that the later opening and barging to the terminal would lead to transport time going down, savings for various customers and export of goods out of the country.
Speaking on the overall benefits of the terminal to the economy, he said, “This first phase starting from transfers by road and as I have said to you, we have 15,000 square meters here now but the second phase will be opened, the real game will start because we will start to barge from there into this terminal and that is what everybody else is looking for.
“We all know the situation in Apapa, we know the situation in Tincan, long delays in getting containers out there and deliver to various customers and that will cost money. So, later opening and barging to this terminal will lead to transport time going down, saving of course for various customers and on the other side, also, when we start to barge, we send export out of the country also.
“We all know oil prices are not what they used to be, there are problems on exchange from this and everybody is looking at another revenues. So, export can be boosted through this place because if you talk to the outside world, they are complaining in some cases about the quality of commodities out of Nigeria and it is not good for the brand name, Nigeria. There are long queues and delays in getting containers to the terminals which affects the quality of the products going out. So, but this has a solution once we start barging. We try to take off the problems and put Nigeria back on the map.
“So, we expect a lot of exports to be processed out of this place to the various terminals and bring the economy back to where it has to be. So, we are looking forward to open the second phase but today here we are on the first phase. So, congrats to everybody and we are ready to do business. So, all the shipping companies and all the terminals, kindly reach out to us because we are ready to make you more successful and as you become more successful, we also become more successful and we will all enjoy it. Thank you very much, reach out to us, we are ready for you.”
Also speaking, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms Hadiza Bala Usman who marveled at the level of work so far put in place at the terminal within a very short time maintained that that history was being made at the terminal with the massive investments in the provision of port infrastructure through a solely indigenous initiative.
Usman who was represented at the occasion by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, NPA, Mr. Onari Brown stated that this facility marked a watershed in the national quest towards encouraging private participation in the provision of facilities for economic growth and development.
She noted that “In recognition of the role of the ports as a catalyst for economic development and in view of the limited resources available to government for the provision of infrastructure required to enable our ports operate within the acceptable standard and practices, the federal government in 2003, commenced the port reform process which culminated to port concession” adding that “the intention was to among others address infrastructural deficit, improve port efficiency and free funds used by government for the provision of other social amenities.”
The Managing Director pointed out that this initiative by the SIFAX Group was a clear manifestation of the company’s identification with the policy thrust of the government by creating a port expansion facility through the conception and realization of this project.
“This facility is important with fixed import and export laden and empty container equipment aimed at absorbing pressure from main port and increasing overall terminal holding capacity of the port in Apapa. The facility, no doubt, will have direct social economic benefits manifest in port decongestion, quick turnaround of vessels, easy cargo clearance, reduction of traffic and port approaches and employment generation for the host communities, human capital development, increase GDP and increase revenue to government.
“You will all agree with me that with the sustained creation of the right environment for business to thrive by government as conceptualized by the ports concession programme of the Authority, there is great hope for growth and development for the overall sectors of the economy”, she said.
While congratulating the SIFAX Group on this audacious contribution to national development, she assured that as an Authority, they would always stand by the company and would always support it to enhance its growth as according to her, “your growth is also our growth.”