Togo Overtakes Nigeria in Shipping Business

24 February 2021

Togo has overtaken Nigeria to become the maritime hub in West and Central Africa due to a long-running crisis bedeviling the nation's seaports! LEADERSHIP can reveal.

Before now, Nigeria was number one in shipping business in the whole of West and Central Africa, but has now dropped to second position.

Nigeria has Apapa, Tin-Can Island, Onne, Calabar and Delta ports. These ports happened to be the main commercial entry points into Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, but has been affected by delay of import/export processes, vessels congestion at anchorage as well as poor access roads leading to the seaports.

While Nigerian ports are still struggling to achieve efficiency, the Port of Lomé tripled its capacity from 311, 500 containers in 2013 to 1.1 million in 2017. This surge can be explained by several factors that included a depth of 16.60 meters.

With this, the Port of Lome overtook Lagos, and become West Africa's leading port with a capacity of 1.1 million twenty-foot containers (TEU).

Similarly, it is also the only deep-water port on the West African coast that can accommodate 3rd generation ships, even as the port is well-connected and goods can be delivered to several West African capitals in a single day.

Its success is also largely due to the inauguration of the Lomé Container Terminal (LCT), which handles about 75 per cent of the containers shipped through the Port of Lomé.

On the other hand, Nigeria's Apapa Port in Lagos (1 million TEU) lost 30 per cent of its container traffic to Lome Port over five years due to chronic congestion and the poor quality of its services.

Maritime experts have also identified insecurity on the nation's maritime domain especially the anchorage as another reason vessels abandoned Nigerian seaports for Lome Port.

They also observed that seaports with best infrastructure such as deeper draught, intermodal means of evacuation turn out to be a maritime hub to support shipping and trade.

They further argued that Lome Port with over 16 meters draught can accommodate larger vessels while none of Nigerian seaports draught can go beyond 13 meters after dredging.

Due to these challenges, Lome Port, in Togo, is now the region's busiest port, and cargo destined for Nigeria is increasingly offloaded or shipped via smaller vessels from ports in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville.

"Nigeria is definitely behind the curve," said senior analyst at Dynamar, Darron Wadey

The dysfunction in Lagos port is allowing other West African ports, servicing far smaller markets, to eclipse Nigeria and unfortunately, the final destination of the content of the bigger vessels that call at neighbouring countries are transhipped with smaller vessels to Nigerian ports because of the large population and seize of Nigerian markets.

Speaking on the issue, the national president, National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said the neighbouring ports have already positioned their ports as "Millennium Ports, Preferred, Transhipment or Load centre," adding that, most West African ports built their ports to accommodate Nigerian bound cargo knowing about the country's poor infrastructure.

Amiwero identified the neighbouring ports which have either completed their deep sea projects or near completion as Cotonou, Benin Republic, Lome, Togo, Accra, Ghana and Cameroun.

He called on the federal government to wake up by designing the concept of a Deep sea/Transhipment centre to accommodate large E-Class vessels/mega ships of 8000- 20000TEUs, that are currently demanded regionally and globally.

According to him, this was the only solution to the diversion of goods to neighbouring ports.

He advised that with international best practices, Nigeria must design the following: "A National Guarantee system to cover the payment of import duty taxes at the time of transit; Custom Seal that ensure the physical integrity of the goods while in transit, making sure that the goods start and exit the transit in its original state; implement electronic tracking system enabling Customs to track and locate transit vehicles and guide intervention force including Customs staff; a document system to enable transit document issued at the start of Transit journey to be accepted by transport and Custom authority along transit."

Amiwero also identified inefficient port system as the reason why the country lost the transshipment hub status to other West African countries.

He said except there is a change in infrastructure rehabilitation, Nigeria will continue to lose cargoes to neighbouring countries which have deep seaports and better facilities, saying, it is sad that Nigerian ports cannot accommodate mega ships with 8000-20000 TEUs, arguing that this was against the trend in neighbouring ports.

According to him, this was the only solution to the diversion of goods to neighboring ports.

He also called on the federal government to address the unwholesome practices of manipulated delays by providers of shipping services and other government agencies which have led to high demurrage, rent and high transactional costs.

Describing such practices as inimical to the efficiency of the port system, Amiwero said, such issues against Nigerian ports need to be addressed for the sake of national economy.

Also speaking, the vice president, ANLCA, Kayode Farinto, said it is a shame that the nation's second largest revenue earner, after oil was left to wallop in such a sorry state with dilapidated infrastructure.

Farinto said there are too many factors that are drawing the sector backward, ranging from bad access roads to the ports, to high shipping costs, shallow water draft at seaports.

"There are too many issues responsible for the setback. The government does not have either the political will or she is not serious about implementing those good policies. You should expect that before the end of this year we are going to have more than 40 per cent drop in cargo coming to Nigerian ports," he said.

Noting that the neighbouring countries, such as Ghana, Cote D'ivoire, Ghana and Togo are rapidly developing their seaports, he said, Nigeria is currently loosing grip of the shipping economy due to abandonment of the sector, which is the second revenue earner for the government after oil.

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