Why seaports, unlike airports, don’t work during public holidays

The two days public holidays declared by the Federal Government in commemoration of the 2019 Eid El-Kabir has come and gone, and while the airports remained busy all through the break; the seaports were closed, fueling fears of cargo pile-up and congestion woes.

When the Nigerian Tribune visited the Apapa ports on Monday, it was observed that many of the shipping companies had closed for the break.

Confirming the inactivity at the ports to the Nigerian Tribune during public holidays, the spokesman of the Tin-Can Command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Uche Ejesieme, explained that during such breaks, key stakeholders in the port logistic chain do not operate, thereby ensuring there is no cargo examination once government declares public holidays.

In his words, “You know that once it’s public holidays, the shipping companies and the terminal operators would close down for business at the ports in Nigeria. And Customs cannot work in isolation without the shipping companies and the terminal operators, so once these people don’t work, then there is nothing we can do. It’s a chain thing at the ports.”

Also speaking to the Nigerian Tribune, a clearing agent, Augustine Azu, wondered why the seaports cannot operate during public holidays despite congestion fears at the ports. According to Azu, “During public holidays, airports thrive more than during normal days because many people travel by air to their various towns to celebrate the festivity. Airlines don’t shut down flight operations when government declares public holidays. But the case is not the same at the seaports.

“Once government declares public holidays, shipping companies close down operations in Nigeria to observe the break. This does not help us in this country because of congestion issues at the ports.

“Once the shipping companies close down operations, there is nothing that can be done at the ports. The terminal operators would also close down operations; the Customs too would not come.

“It’s important that we change in this country. If the airlines thrive during public holidays and the airports are busy, why should the seaports be closed during same public holidays? Cargoes are begging to be cleared at the ports, why are we compounding our own problems?”

It would be recalled that a vessel, M/V Hammonia America had omitted Tin-Can port due to congestion claims and discharged her Nigerian cargoes in Cotonou port.