At Apapa Wharf, safety is still an issue

TOLA ADENUBI examines the hazards involved in dock–working


Working inside the ports and terminals located in Apapa, Lagos State requires guts and prayers due to the level of safety concerns amongst the different port operators that run and manage the ports facilities on behalf of government.

In the months of October 2015, two dockworkers paid the ultimate price when they lost their lives while on duty inside the Five Star Logistics Terminal, Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos. The two dockworkers, Samson Oheha and Paul Ifah died within a spate of two weeks inside the same terminal following neglect of safety issues by port operators at the seaports.

The death of these two dockworkers opened up a gale of shock as to how some operators neglect safety precaution during their port operations. Investigations later revealed that while some operators buy inferior safety tools for dockworkers in their terminals, others abandon safety apparatus outright like boots and allow their workers to wear slippers while working at the ports.


The dockworkers branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has already noted and identified terminal operators living above board, stating that others go for inferior safety apparatus for their workers during work period at the ports.

According to the President of the dockworkers branch of the MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, “there are terminals and ports that are prone to dangers and mishaps when it comes to safety at the ports. This is because these operators compromise on acquisition of standard safety apparatus and equipment for their workers.

“Again, aside the effort of the operators, the individual dockworker needs proper training to be adequately prepared for life at the ports. Experience in the recent past has shown that some people work in the ports even when they don’t have the required training to do so. How they got into the ports in the first place speaks volume of the porosity of the ports.

“For now, the only terminal that is 100 percent observant of all safety procedures is the APM Terminal in Apapa port. We at MWUN say this because nobody can enter the APM Terminal without being equipped with all necessary and standard gadgets.

“Some other terminals have also improved over the years. Port terminals like Port & Cargo Handling Service (P&CHS), Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT), ENL Consortium”



Adeyanju also listed safety criteria for dockworkers intending to go and work inside the ports. In his words, “To enter any terminal or port for duty, there is need for a dockworker to first be given a safety overall. Also, we have what we call safety boots. In terms of the safety boots, many port operators go for the substandard ones.

“The standard safety boots have iron in the front. The safety boots must be hard in nature. But what we see mostly in the ports are very soft boots with no iron in front of them. Some terminal operators even allow their dockworkers to wear bathroom slippers inside the ports. It is that pathetic.

“Another criterion for safety compliance aside the overall and safety boots is the nose cover and head helmet. Dockworkers must also wear hand gloves depending on the type of jobs that have been asked of them to do inside the ports.

“For terminals that operate bulk cargo operations like wheat, rice, etc, dockworkers working there must wear nose cover because they inhale so many dangerous chemicals that is injurious to the health.

“For them not to inhale those chemicals, that are why those nose covers are very paramount. However, some operators overlook this and ask dockworkers to go inside their bulk terminals to work. This contravenes safety rules.

“For dockworkers working on containers, they must be well-kitted. When I say well-kitted, it means their safety boots must be the standard ones. They must also wear overall and helmet because danger can come from anywhere.

“There is what is called twist-lock during the process of discharging container cargoes. It is about 5.2kg in weight. If the twist-lock falls or hits the human head, the victim will die instantly. That is why we insist on helmet on the heads of dockworkers who are on container cargoes at the ports.

“Then for dockworkers inside the frozen vessels, that is the refrigerated compartment of a vessel; all the safety apparatus mentioned earlier  overall, helmet, gloves, safety boots must be given to workers before they go inside such vessels because inside, of such vessels, it is very cold.”