As rail transport for cargo is inexistent or inefficient, containers are transported by lorry between warehouses and Lagos ports. Transit to port terminals can be lengthy and the safety of the cargo on the road is very difficult to guarantee.
Trucks can stay up to four weeks queuing on the road before entering either Apapa or Tin Can Island ports. Congestion is created by a combination of gargantuan traffic jams in the city, and disorganisation at the port entry. Terminals are overcrowded with large volumes of containers inefficiently handled. Check-in is now done online but delays for documentation approval by Port Authorities continue. Customs controls are performed manually in both ports: containers are opened and their content verified, and the whole process is time-consuming.
Various “task forces” take advantage of the poor infrastructure to the ports by providing queue-jumping for money, the roadblocks add to the congestion.
Even though shippers put padlocks or temporary seals on the containers, cargo thefts on the road are frequent. Whether the driver is threatened, unaware of the theft or equally an accomplice, we see numerous cases of short-delivered cargo at arrival.
Pre-shipment entails an additional risk for the cargo: a long stay inside the container is particularly problematic for edible goods. The above-mentioned issues added to a potentially long wait in the terminal lengthen further the duration between stuffing and loading.
In an aim to alleviate waiting in the queue at the port entrance, shipping lines have introduced the use of barges to enter the port by the sea. However, trucks also have to queue up to a week on the road before boarding the barges. In addition, containers are sometimes loaded on the barges in a disruptive manner causing accidents. Cases of containers falling into the sea have been reported.
Long term public projects to reduce traffic jams are ongoing: a dry port in Kano and Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway project, which is supposed to handle 3,5 million tons of freight per year.
All the above logistical aspects should be thoroughly considered locally when insuring Nigerian exports.