Inland Dry Ports (IDP) in Nigeria

Originally, a dry port was defined as an inland terminal to and from which shipping lines could issue their bills of lading, with the concept being initially envisaged as applicable to all types of cargo. In both theory and practice, however, the concept has evolved to be closely associated with the rapid expansion of containerisation and related changes in cargo handling (Leitner, Sara Jean; Harrison, Robert (2001); The Identification and Classification of Inland Ports. Though dry ports in developing countries have more chance of facing a lack of trained/experienced human resources and information system support for inland transportation.

An inland dry port (IDP) helps to speed the flow of cargo between ships and major land transportation networks, creating a more central distribution point. Inland ports improve the movement of imports and exports, moving the time-consuming sorting and processing of containers inland, away from congested seaports. The question now here is why has there not been a considerable decrease in the sea traffic of Nigeria’s Sea ports? This is due to the government’s nonchalant attitude to providing more efficient intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to our seaports which will serve as a centre for the transhipment of sea cargo to inland destinations (See Inland Container Nigeria Limited contemporary status by Yusuf Babalola).

As presently conceived, the IDP project is foundationally malfunctioning. Nigeria currently has dry ports projects located in Kano, Plateau, Abia, Maiduguri, Kaduna and Ibadan and only that of Kaduna has been completed but still not connected to a railway terminal, the reason for this setback is due to inappropriate logistics and expertise. African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa each have at least 4 fully-functioning Inland ports which have helped reduce traffic in their country seaports. The United States of America has about 8 fully-functioning Inland dry ports, while Australia has almost 13 different Inland dry ports.

Analysing the contemporary issues of Nigeria’s dry ports, After 12 years of unnerving inaction by the concessionaires, the only flicker of hope was given by the ICNL whose IDP in Kaduna was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari early last year. Hassan Bello, the Executive Secretary of the Council threatened to withdraw their licences if nothing was done on the project. The threat, however, had little impact because it’s only one out of the seven ICDS that has been substantially completed. While two IDPs at Jos and Isiala Ngwa are in various stages of completion, the rest have since shown no sign of life (“Shippers’ Council Moves to Attract Investors” by Eromosele Abiodun). The Nigerian Dry Port Service Enterprise should be supervised by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. After the project’s completion, the aforementioned ministry should still supervise operations and services of the dry ports; providing services of loading and unloading, imposing appropriate rules and regulations as to various forms of loss and liabilities, storing of imported and exported goods, services of stowing and unpacking of containerized export and imported goods, provide container depot services and also engage in other related activities conducive to the achievement of its purposes “Truckers cry foul over delays at Inland Container Depot”; Business Daily Africa . The Nigerian government is not tackling the real problems that are threatening to stifle the realisation of the Dry Inland Ports project, the Nigerian government has not created the necessary enabling environment to stimulate the quantum of investments which this project requires. The Federal Government has failed to define the legal framework that will reinforce the operations of the concessionaires in the initial agreement and this is an existing lacuna that has led to the abandonment of the project.

Apart from not reinforcing the legal framework, the project was initially conceptualised and agreements were made with the promoters without factoring in the full support and cooperation of the host state governments. In 2005, the structure of the ICD cited in Jos was said to have been demolished by the state government. Nevertheless, there have been efforts of the present leadership of Shippers Council and the Minister of Transportation and this has changed the narrative in the relationship between the operators and their host states. A different factor that is fundamental to the survival of the Inland Ports project is rail connectivity (. As a matter of fact, rail connectivity is at the core and the whole essence of the dry port project. By virtue of its location at the hinterland, IDPs are to be fed regularly with containers from the conventional ports. This is done through the railway for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. “ Economic prospects of Nigeria’s Dry ports; Our Correspondents. “

The access roads to the ports, especially the Apapa port is in a poor state. Although some works are being done to make some portion of the roads more usable, it would be better if this development is supported by a strong intermodal system that includes rail and waterways. It is noteworthy that the efforts are being made to use the rail line and the waterways for cargo movement to dry ports, however, the low level of rolling Current Cargo Clearing Cycle Process starts with ship berthing Boarding 30 mins Offload to dedicated area 24 hrs Process ends with containers leaving the Port. Release Containers 2 hrs Conduct Inspection 24 hrs Pay Duties and terminal charges Up to 90 days stocks and the fact that the waterways adoption is still in its infancy mean that access to and from the ports will still be largely through the roads.

Currently, the seaports in the country are yet to be linked with rails, except the Apapa port which is sadly linked with a narrow gauge that is out-dated. This is why the Kaduna IDP is still struggling and its promoters lamenting underutilisation of the facility due to lack of much activity Nigeria’s first dry port waits for cargoes – Punch Newspapers Nigeria’s first dry port waits for cargoes; Anna Okon). The pioneer inland container depot in. Despite the assurances of the Nigerian Railway Corporation to move cargoes to the dry port, the promoters of the facility are still relying on road transport to get cargo from the port. The Nigerian Railway does not have the wagons and the locomotives to pull cargo from the Apapa port to Kaduna IDP. The Nigerian government lacks the seriousness to nurture the IDP project to fruition. Struggles of the only operating IDP currently in partial operations have sent a wrong signal to other operators of what awaits them when they become operational. It is also a bad advertisement for foreign investors who might want to invest in the project. Likewise, it will not encourage banks to commit their funds into the project given the lack of basic infrastructure that is a paramount element to the survival of the project. More investment in strategic dry ports infrastructure will solve the lingering crises of ports congestion by cutting off the dwell-time of cargo at the seaports.

We believe that it was as a result of these infrastructural gaps that the rest of the operators are foot-dragging to commit their resources into the project. The government should as a matter of policy include rail connectivity from all the ports in the country to the IDP sites spread across the country.


Written by: Guest Writer