Gridlock: Operators at crossroads over endless congestion

Failure by shipping companies and jetty operators to abide by government’s directives to provide holding bays for their trucks has rendered the efforts of various taskforces on port roads useless, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

 

 

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s inefficient traffic management system, corruption and lack of compliance among stakeholders assume a new dimension along port roads, experts have said that unless the Federal Government compels shipping companies and petroleum jetty operators to provide waiting bays for their vehicles, perennial gridlock will continue to impede trade facilitation.

 

 

For instance, in 2017, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it would sanction erring shipping companies, terminal operators, who failed to provide holding bays for their trucks and containers through the newly-adopted call-up system.

It added that all erring shipping companies and terminal operators that failed to comply with the agreement on the use of holding bays would be punished.

 

 

The Managing Director of the authority, Ms Hadiza Usman, had noted in Lagos that the agreement was reached as part of the resolutions adopted during their meetings.

Despite the threat, Lagos bridges, residential premises and roads in Apapa have become permanent homes to trucks and tankers.

New development

 

 

It was learnt that while security officials now collect illegal toll to escort trucks to the port, some drivers employed by manufacturing firms to move their cargoes out of the port terminals also engaged in sharp practices.

According to Bala-Usman, some drivers collect money to allow other trucks queue in their front while on fast track.

 

 

Bala-Usman, who was represented by the Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu at a stakeholders’ meeting on how to eliminate traffic gridlock, decongest the port and bring about efficiency in Nigerian port system, explained that the system employed by the drivers to scuttle orderliness was called ‘break mashing.’

With ‘break mashing,’ a driver collects as much as N20,000 per truck allowed to queue in his front.

 

 

Worried by the illegalities on the roads and bridges, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, said that Lagos State government should establish mobile courts in Apapa in order to prosecute and jail traffic offenders.

 

Defiance

Bello, who was represented by the council’s Director of Consumer Services, Mr. Carjetan Agu, said that the major cause of the traffic gridlock in Apapa was lack of compliance by operators.

He said that the truck parks at Tin Can Port and Lillypond Terminal at Ijora must be put to use as holding bay and truck call up system.

 

 

He said:  “On the issue of corruption, if it is possible, we would liaise with Lagos State government to give us a mobile court. Let there be a mobile court, if you are found guilty, you should be tried and jailed.

“We have nominated about 48 parks in number; the essence of it is that there was a presidential order that all trucks and tankers must vacate the roads to their parks pending the time they would be called on to come to the port. Let all the trucks go to these parks. For the call up system to work, we must equally look at the efficiency of the terminal operators; they must tell us the minimum number of trucks they can accept in a day. A situation where they are refusing to accept trucks into their facilities is causing problems.”

 

 

However, Bala-Usman lamented that the Lillypond truck park was being used as garages by truck owners.

She said that it had become imperative for truck drivers to show evidence that their vessels have berthed at the port before coming to pick cargoes inside the port.

She decried the number of armed men on the bridges passing trucks and warned against illegal collection of money.

 

 

According to her, if they were not collecting money, the truck won’t be on the bridges.

Bala-Usman noted: “There is gridlock in Apapa because many illegalities happen on the roads. Security officials drive or escort trucks while some are collecting illegal toll.”

The NPA boss said that the terminal operators should allow barges to berth at their terminals to pick and return empty containers.

Illegal trucks

Also, the Executive Vice Chairman, Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa Port Area, Mr Kayode Opeifa, said that the issue of Lilypond should be solved because it was a critical part to reduce congestion.

He noted: “If terminals don’t work, congestion will prevail. Someone is bringing illegal trucks into Lilypond park. There is the need for transparent call-up system. To station trucks on the bridge is not the standard. They should be removed to avoid extortion. Terminal operators should have towing trucks to help remove broken down trucks.”

He lamented that the Apapa gridlock had been driven by corruption which must be tackled.

He stressed that stakeholders in Apapa should desist from unhealthy rivalry and collaborate to tackle the gridlock.

Opeifa said that stakeholders in Apapa should desist from unhealthy rivalry and collaborate to tackle the gridlock.

 

 

He noted that issues to be tackled included transit parks for trucks, road worthiness of trucks, stakeholders’ engagement, call-up system that is operational, extortion and free port access process.

The National President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Ms Saratu Aliyu, also said that corruption had played a major role in the Apapa gridlock.

Aliyu, represented by Mrs. Margret Orakwusi, a former Chairman, Nigerian Trawlers Owners Association (NITOA), urged stakeholders to think more about the economy of the country.

 

 

Solution

The task team vice chairman, who recalled that the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) had pulled put all its officials from Apapa in 2015 when one of its senior officials was stoned to death along Marine Road, noted that 200 officials of LASTMA had been deployed to ease traffic congestion at the port roads.

Also, Opeifa urged all concerned stakeholders to render their support to LASTMA as a way of corporate social responsibility.

 

 

He charged terminal operators in Apapa to acquire a towing truck in order to address the challenges of container laden trucks breaking down or falling on the road.

According to him,  “Not less than 12 trucks breakdown every week in Apapa, and it takes more than eight hours to clear one single truck that breaks down, this has further shown that majority of the trucks being used for transportation are very rickety and bad.

 

 

“Some of them do not have headlights or side mirror and terminal operators do not check these trucks before putting containers on them. If we say that Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) should come to the port, operators would raise an alarm.”

Last line

Government should make use of the 48 holding bays identified in Lagos in order to solve traffic congestion on Apapa roads.

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