Following the extended strike by truck drivers at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa last week, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has suspended major shipping lines from operating at the port since July 14. The suspension will be valid until July 24 and affect port and vessel operations of container lines including Maersk Line, Cosco Shipping, APS and Lansal. According to authorities, the shipping companies failed to make enough storing capacity available because the amount of containers imported was larger than the amount of exported, empty ones. This has reportedly contributed to the persistent congestion around the port complex which, in part, led to last week’s strike. Congestion issues have been reported for weeks in Lagos. Truck drivers have protested against a new pick-up system for containers introduced in earlier this year, as well as against the wretched state of access roads to the port.
It is not immediately clear what the suspension entails for container lines. Some reports suggest that container lines have been prohibited from calling at Lagos Port, though other operations are expected to remain unaffected. However, other sources are stating that shipping companies have reportedly been forced to clear their trucks from the port area onto the Apapa-Oshodi expressway and surrounding roads, causing extreme traffic congestions since July 16. More than 12,000 container-laden trucks and tankers were reportedly parked across the entire city on July 19, paralyzing container movements. Reports of attacks on the stranded trucks and their cargo have also emerged.
It seems unlikely that the situation will normalize before the suspension is lifted. Shipping companies have reportedly been in dialogue with port authorities to prove their compliance; however, it remains unknown whether the suspension will be lifted before July 24. Customers are advised to expect extreme delays for import and export cargo for the next weeks as cargo may take up to 30 days to arrive at the final destination. In addition, other container lines may decide to omit port calls at Lagos as a result of the congestion, and discharge cargo at other ports for later onward shipment to destinations in Nigeria.
This is likely to cause weeks of delays and may be further exacerbated by a strike action of port workers. Earlier this week, dockworkers with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria have threatened to strike over repairs to the port’s access roads by the end of July 2018. Should this materialize, the situation is expected to worsen.