Apapa Gridlock: We need infrastructural development, intermodalism- Shippers’ Council Boss

          …As stakeholders demand automated system

With growing trade volumes stretching facilities in and around the ports, there is need for commensurate development of infrastructure, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, has stated.
Bello made the statement while giving his address at a day seminar organised by the League of Maritime Editors, addressing the issue of the perennial gridlock plaguing the port city in Lagos and creating difficulties in the movement of goods into and out of the ports.

According to Bello, the access roads to the ports ought to expanded, while it has also become very important to link the modes of transportation for ease of cargo movement, to complete the trade chain.

He, however, expressed confidence of improvement in the situation by March 2020 when the Lillypond Transit Truck Park would have been linked with the rails.

Speaking in the same vein on the need for intermodalism  the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Eng. Jatto Adams, said the only solution to the gridlock was to introduce intermodal transport system.

He said that a technologically-driven solution, which include a combination of waterways, rail, pipeline and the road would serve to address the problem.

He added that even the truck drivers have to embrace technology through electronic call system to have an efficient system.

Jatto, however, noted that a call-up system would be better managed by private operators, while the NPA would ensure that only trucks with business at the ports are given access.

He recalled that though the NPA had promised to introduce a call up system for trucks, but apologized that the management had since realized that this should be handled by private operators.

He said, “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.

“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 with functional single window and electronic call-up systems, because that is the best way to have efficiency. Gridlock would 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.”

Speaking on the way forward, head of the Presidential Taskforce Team on management on the Apapa gridlock, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, stated that his team’s mandate was to ensure sanity in operations among the trucks making their way into and out of the ports.

He blamed the situation on several trucks that decide to remain on the queue just to be in search of business, when they are not actually booked to go into the ports yet.

He also blamed shipping companies for not making provisions to keep their empties, just as he blamed some truck drivers for offering inducement to be allowed access into the ports, thus shunting and causing chaos.

He also charged terminal operators to work in the manner that would ensure ease and sanity in the operations of the trucks.

He said: “Terminal operators dealing in containers and flatbeds, they are not working the way they should work. If they work they should work, there is no reason a truck should leave Lilypond and stay five days on this road.

“There was no call-up system when we came. But we have developed one and handed to NPA, it is the NPA that would now manage it. We operated it for three months and that was when you did not see the trucks on the roads.”

In his welcome address, the President of the League, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke, stressed the need for automation as the solution to the gridlock.

He called for a truck park that is big enough to take between 30,000 and 50,000 trucks.
He added that government must be fast in addressing the issue of congestion because of its negative effect on business and life of residents in Apapa.

According to him, “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.

“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?

“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.”

Contributing, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, tasked the authorities concerned to begin an automated system for the call-up of trucks.

Ogungbemi said that the problem of the gridlock in Apapa has been due to the manual system operated in granting trucks access into the ports, a process he said would have been better managed in an automated system.