Business

Leveraging science to end port gridlock

After several measures have failed, a new approach is being considered by the Federal Government to tackle the perennial gridlock at port access roads before the end of first quarter 2021, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

 

 

As inefficient traffic management system, inadequate infrastructure, corruption and lack of compliance among the stakeholders have assumed a new dimension on the port roads, government said that there was a new strategy in the pipeline to tackle the traffic congestion at the port road in 2021.

Already, numerous measures introduced to address the gridlock, holding bay, delay in clearance of cargoes and other challenges have failed in the last one decade.

Measures

The Federal Government had introduced the ease of doing business under the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in 2016, call up system, provision of holding bay by shipping lines and establishment of Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa Port Area among others to address port challenges, but no solution as some security operatives are still hiding under some miscreants to extort money from truckers on the Apapa port roads.

Illegalities

It was gathered that some security agencies, who are not saddled with the responsibility of managing the chaotic traffic in the area, use hoodlums to collect illegal fees of between N40,000 and N60,000 before trucks are allowed to pass some specific axis of the roads. Most of the affected truckers are those returning empty or export containers to the port.

More worrisome is that the taskforce set up to remove trucks on bridges and roads in Apapa as well as to restore law and order on the port roads are also culpable.

Likewise, it was gathered that the problem caused by shipping lines after the ports were concessioned in 2006, is partly responsible for the gridlock and high cost of trucking containers from the ports to other destinations within Lagos.

For instance, in 2017, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said that 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 but no shipping line was sanctioned.

 

 

According to the Chairman of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Kirikiri Lighter Terminal chapter, Engr. Emmanuel Umeadi, liners such as Maersk Line, Pacific International Line (PIL) and Cosco Shipping Line are culpable as they refuse to provide holding bays after several warning by the government.

The chairman explained that failure by the shipping companies and jetty operators to abide by the government’s directives to provide holding bays for their trucks had rendered the various solutions on the port roads useless.

New line

Miffed by these problems, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) said that it would no longer be business as usual, saying it had set machineries in motion to end to the perennial gridlock in Apapa and the ports before end of first quarter of 2021.

Its Executive Secretary, Barr. Hassan Bello, dropped the hint in his office, Lagos when he hosted the National Advisory Committee set up by the Presidency on African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

For instance, he noted that the country’s dependence on the road for the de  livery and evacuation of cargoes was totally wrong, adding that they were introducing rail and barges through the inland waterways.

He added that the gridlock and other issues in the ports and along the corridors being tackled would make the country utilise the benefits in the AfCFTA.

Bello stressed that the country had a deficit on infrastructure, issues in rail, road, connectivity between the ports and the hinterland and elsewhere in Africa.

However, the Managing Director of Otokpo Logistics Limited, Mr Sam Elem, said that unless there is stringent enforcement of the various policies, government would continue to fail.

He added that some measures adopted in the past had not work because of lack of patrioticism and inadequate infrastructure.

Solution

 

He said: “Am an optimistic person and that is why I want to say that by March, first quarter of 2021, the gridlock in Apapa will disappear. This is because we are approaching it in a scientific angle. First we have to make the ports digital and contactless, no need to go to the port to make payment or  other transaction, all these will be online.”

Apart from using science, also, he explained that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was planning to deploy electronic call-up system to manage traffic, while Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would deploy e-customs and scanners to address the port problems.

The executive secretary said that all these would have to come together in a very deliberate manner to ensure that trade was made, noting that he had advocated for the economy to be trade- based which he believed would have impact on economy internally, production, manufacturing, transport and others.

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

Last line

There is need for the Federal Government to enforce all the policies introduced to ensure smooth trade facilitation in all the ports. Otherwise, the country’s ports would lose their hub status.

 

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