· FG must crush individuals, companies liable for Apapa traffic – League of Editors
· There won’t be lasting solution without inter-modalism – NPA
· Why I abandoned 2019 IMO Council Elections – Amaechi
By Kenneth Jukpor
The age-long traffic congestion at Lagos ports can be attributed squarely to terminal operators’ lack of data of trucks movement and the unhealthy rivalry between terminal operators and their truckers along the port access roads.
The Presidential Task Team saddled with the onus of freeing Lagos port access roads, made this claim last week at the League of Maritime Editors’ seminar on theme: “Sustainability of the Lagos Ports Access Road Decongestion: Lasting Solutions”.
The Executive Vice- Chairman of the Presidential TaskTeam, Comrade Kayode Opeifa argued that the activities of his team had been hindered by this because data was key to proper planning with a view to solving the problem of Apapa port traffic.
His words: “The bane of the traffic gridlock is that there is no data. Those who have data aren’t willing to share it, while others don’t have this data. When people say there has been no improvement in the traffic situation, they may be wrong if the claim isn’t backed with data.”
“You need data to be able to measure performance and verify if things are getting better or worse. You need data to know the number of trucks transiting the route on daily basis. You need data to know the category of trucks that enter the ports and terminals. This data would also help in planning the call-up system and input into technology,” he said.
Also speaking on the negative impact of the activities of terminal operators on the traffic gridlock, he said, “We have about six terminals at Apapa and Tin Can port environs doing the same business. For instance, in order to access Greenview Development Nigeria Limited (GDNL), you take the same route that leads to AP Moller and they both deal in the same products. BUA, Honeywell, Dangote are also competitors but the competition ought to be in the market and not at the ports.
“You see their truckers struggling to get ahead of each other and in doing that they shortchange the system. You find someone who ought to be at the port by 12noon comes in before 10am and obstructs someone who has consignment to pick by 11am. There is only one entrance to the ports so this becomes a huge challenge. Sometimes GDNL truckers want to access the terminal but it is blocked by AP Moller and it could be the other way too. There shouldn’t be rivalry, at least, not at the ports because the market is huge enough to take their products.”
Meanwhile, the President of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LOMEP) Mr. Kingsley Anaroke harped on the need for automation even as he urged the government to crush all individuals, groups or organizations sponsoring the gridlock.
“It is time to know those behind this problem, identify them and arrest them. It doesn’t matter if it is an agency, organization or an individual. We have to crush them. If it costs N1 billion to crush the tank farms on this axis to address this problem, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to solve the problem so that things can function optimally at the ports,” Anaroke said.
Meanwhile, he opined that in the short term, a massive truck park which would take about 30,000 to 50,000 trucks would help solve the traffic gridlock.
“There is need for automation. It is time to have the political will. There are over forty holding bays in the Lagos port area. How much automation has been deployed in these facilities? Does one operator know what the other person is doing? Are these facilities synchronized?” he queried.
Noting that the long term solution hinged on the rail development which could be halted by change in government, he added; “If we have any intervention, it has to be immediate and concrete. Ultimately, what we are emphasizing is automation to reduce opportunities for human contact in the system. This would reduce corruption and other ills.”
Representing the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Engr. Adams Jatto asserted that there would be no lasting solution to Lagos ports access chaos without intermodalism.
According to Jatto, “People have to understand that there would be no lasting solution to the problem of port access roads until the alternatives which include railway, waterways and piping are optimal. The trucking system also has to be technologically driven which brings us to the electronic call-up system”
“We should have truck parks far from the ports and be able to call them electronically into the ports. This electronic truck call-up system is something that NPA is pushing for. However, discussions are ongoing with Ogun State and Lagos State to have large portions of land available.”
The NPA General Manager also stressed that the management of the electronic call-up system would be private driven while NPA would assure the operators that if the trucks have business to do in the ports, they would be called in, via a transparent and efficient process.
Noting that NPA promised to achieve the electronic call-up system in 2019, he apologized on behalf of the Authority and revealed that the delay arose after NPA decided that private operators would manage the call-up system.
“We believe that this process would solve the problem and we are open to receive the private sector investments and interested parties in this. In 2020, we are looking forward to having more efficient ports which functional single window and electronic call-up systems because that is the best way to have efficiency. Gridlock should be a thing of the past and this is achievable in 2020 with the massive development of the railways and the re-construction of the roads” he added.
In another development, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has said that he declined attending the recent International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council elections as a result of the nation’s abysmal performance in maritime security.
Amaechi revealed this during the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) 2019 Stakeholders’ Night of Appreciation last week, as he lamented that Nigeria had become number one in the globe on insecurity in the maritime sector.
“Somalia was number one some years ago but the international community was able to address the issue in Somalia. The Gulf of Eden later became number one and Nigeria emerged as number two. Today Nigeria is number one,” the Minister said.
He lamented that some private individuals and companies were making money from the unfortunate situation and urged the National Assembly to back in the Ministry in the fight against such exploitation.
“What these private companies do is to go to oil companies and provide vessels to escort them with officers of the Nigerian Navy to the platforms. For every vessel coming into the country, they charge the importer who also factors in the additional cost in the final prices of goods and services”
“As a country, we ought to be ashamed of this practice. When I was asked to prepare for the IMO Council elections, I said I wasn’t going because I am ashamed of Nigeria’s maritime report. This report isn’t hidden and they would read it at that meeting. How would I feel afterwards to introduce myself as a Minister of Transportation from Nigeria (the number one nation in maritime insecurity). I was embarrassed two years ago and I made up my mind not to go there again” he added.
Speaking on the recently attacked Indian vessel ‘Nave Constellation’ in Nigeria, he said; “I have traveled out of the country twice with the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside. We went to see the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria after nineteen foreigners were kidnapped on Nigerian waters and eighteen of them are Indians while the last one is Scottish. I want the National Assembly to note that we would fight this war and nobody will stop us.”
“The federal government disbursed $195million to the Ministry of Transportation to buy equipment and other facilities needed to guarantee safety of the waters. However, some Nigerians who are making money from the system are out to scuttle the government’s effort. Nigeria is losing $27 billion annually and $7billion for oil bunkering” he stated.