Lines Make Plans As Protests Keep Nigerian Ports Shut

Some shipping lines are now starting to reroute services as the strikes that have brought much of Nigeria to a virtual standstill this week continued for a fourth day, but others such as Maersk and Grimaldi are anchoring their vessels offshore in the hope that the ports will soon reopen.

French line CMA CGM has diverted three vessels to Abidjan, Lomé and Tema where containers bound for Lagos have been unloaded. Two more that are due to arrive in Lagos before the end of the week may also be diverted if the stoppages are still continuing.

Maersk, though, is not yet rerouting vessels. Instead, the Danish line has four ships waiting to enter Apapa in Lagos, and another at anchor that is due to berth at a Tin Can Island facility, which also serves the country’s commercial capital. Two more are waiting outside Port Harcourt . All the ships, including one of Maersk’s wafmax newbuildings, are being held well out to sea for safety reasons, in order to avoid the risk of local robberies or piracy attacks.

The Danish line has decided against skipping calls for now because so much of the cargo on board, from Asia and Europe, is bound for Lagos, said the line’s West Africa trades director Sonny Dahl. Transhipping cargo from another location once the ports reopen would be a major logistical challenge, he said. Maersk expects to wait until Monday before deciding whether to move its ships on.

Ro-ro specialist Grimaldi also has ships at anchor outside Lagos in the hope that the situation will soon return to normal.

The Italian group operates the Ports & Terminals Multiservices facility on Tin Can Island, which handles cars and trucks, ro-ro cargo and containers, principally for Grimaldi. However, other ships are able to call there when space is available.

Nigeria’s ports have been closed since late on Sunday, with only security guards on duty at the terminals.

“We have no idea as to when work will resume,” one Lagos-based executive told Lloyd’s List.

Maersk is one of the biggest port customers, accounting for around half of all throughput at APM Terminals ’ Apapa facility which handled some 650,000 teu last year. CMA CGM , CSAV and MOL also call there.

Other Lagos terminal operators include China Merchants , Bolloré and Mediterranean Shipping Co . Most of the country’s container traffic moves through the Lagos terminals at Apapa and Tin Can Island.

Ports were among the first state-owned assets to be privatised in Nigeria, one of Africa’s biggest growth markets. Maersk is introducing ships purpose-built for the region, with 22 wide-beam 4,500 teu wafmax vessels either already in service or under construction.

Nigerian workers are protesting over the government’s removal of fuel subsidies.

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