For many years, the problems arising from the location of tank farms along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway have defied every known solution.
The tank farms have contributed immensely to the traffic gridlock along that corridor. The gridlock on several occasions have resulted to wanton injuries and deaths due to several accidents on that road, as well as loss of revenue. It has also made the 24-hour operation of the ports unachievable.
As a way to resolve this, stakeholders have called for the relocation of the facility to Badagry or out of the port environment. They blamed the government for its inability to fix the refineries whose absence is the cause of the conundrum. They argued that if the refineries were working at full capacity, there would not have been reasons for storing the petroleum products in the tank farms.
According to a report by a don at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Frank Ojadi, the collapse of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is because of the several tank farms along that axis.
The Chairman of Seaport Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, on several occasions, had condemned the location of the tank farms along that axis. She also suggested a relocation of the facilities.
“It is wrong to have populated the port environment with such large number of tank farms. It is part of the problem that government should eventually find a solution to,” she said.
Similarly, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) had equally called on the Federal Government to relocate the tank farms from the port city of Apapa and other locations across the country. The union blamed the chaotic situation on the Apapa end of the highly-busy expressway on the activities of the petroleum tankers.
Also in September 2017, the Lagos State House of Assembly called on the Federal Government to relocate the tank farms from Apapa as a way out of the current gridlock in the area.
Out of the 67 tank farms in Nigeria, over 38 of them are located in the Apapa-Wharf area, a situation that has made movement in that part of Lagos very hellish.
It was perhaps against this backdrop that many saw it as a welcome development when Integrated Oil and Gas Company announced the construction of an industrial free trade zone, also known as Tomaro Island in the belly of Atlantic Ocean to accommodate over 30 tank farms.
The island is made up of 75 hectares of land bounded by two existing free zones, the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) to its right and Snake Island to its left, both providing logistics services to exploration and production business in the oil and gas industry.
It was discovered in 2013 by some medical personnel on medical expedition. Since then, a lot of developments have taken place in that area including a provision to relocate tank farms to the area.
So, on April 3, 2018, Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, took journalists to the island where over 30 tank farms can be relocated to.
“The tank farm project consists of 30 tank bases with storage capacity of 500 million litres of fuel and given the capacity, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be at liberty to draw fuel for 15 days from the facility when there are ups and downs in fuel supply in Nigeria. It is going to be a strategic storage and product supply tank farm.
Most tank farms rely on an arrangement where ships and trucks come to pick products from the farms. But because we are located on the island we will be supplied by ships and discharged also by ships. This means that smaller vessels would be used to take the products from Tomaro tank farms to the farms located at the ports.
“With the capacity in Tomaro, there is no reason we would not be the centre for tank farm operation because we would not only supply Apapa and Tin-Can but also facilities in Port Harcourt, Warri and even some of the countries in West African region like Ghana and Lome. That is why this facility is an industrial park and a free trade zone. This will create job opportunity for people and technology transfer.
“We also intend to develop the 20,000 barrels per day modular refinery and the tanks we are building are going to service the refineries as well in terms of storing the refined petroleum products.
“There will also be a facility for docking ships. We intend to have the capacity to build Floating Production and Storage Oil (FPSO), repair rigs and carry out different kinds of fabrication works.
Tomaro project is actually making progress and we have a number of major investments covering both the oil and maritime sectors. Tomaro Island is a project because it is an industrial zone and it’s designed on the western side to attract people who will do manufacturing. It will be a landmass of one hectare with warehouse, plants, office and manufacturing facilities.
“They can bring in their raw materials, manufacture and export outside Nigeria without paying duty because it is a free trade zone. But if they export into Nigeria, they will pay duty.
“We have the shipyard and oil rig fabrication plant on the western side but on the eastern side, we have the oil industrial investment that has the 20,000 barrels per day refinery and tank farms.
“The project is ongoing just that there are so many things that are being done at the same time. In the next nine months, there would be a project that would be worth commissioning.
“There were investors who are in discussion with us and want to buy into the vision we have in Tomaro. When the American government gave us the grant, investors, mostly Chinese and Europeans, sent in letters of intent to do business with us but at that time we were not too keen because we were still trying to get our approvals in place and sorting out other issues. But now we are ready. We will be going back to those proposals to give them the necessary attention they require,” he assured.