Apapa gridlock: 70% of trucks carry empty containers
As the search for solution to the notorious Apapa traffic gridlock continues, stakeholders have pointed out that over 70 percent of the trucks waiting on the roads daily, convey empty containers, and that removing them would go a long way to resolving the problem.
The stakeholders further observe that truckers convey empty containers with a view to avoiding penalties and demurrage imposed on them in the event of failure or delay to return empty containers to the ports.
This revelation comes as Hadiza Bala-Usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) confirmed plans to BusinessDay, to reach out to willing private investors to develop truck holding-bays through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, to facilitate the introduction of an effective call-up system which would allow only the trucks cleared to come forward, to enter the ports.
The stakeholders who met in Lagos, said it was improper for cargo owners to be responsible for returning empty containers. They said this task should be the responsibility of the shipping companies.
They further blamed the situation on the failure of the NPA and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to get registered shipping companies to provide holding-bays for their empty containers outside the ports, from where such containers can then be moved in an orderly manner (preferably at night) to the ports.
Presently, importers are mandated to pay Container Deposit Charges to shipping companies, as an indemnity to cover for the cost of the empty container, in the event of loss or not being able to return, and the imposition of demurrage in the event of late return of the empty containers.
They also faulted the concessioning of Federal Government owned truck terminals and holding-bays, including Lily Pond, AME Truck Terminal and Jakande Truck Park, to private uses.
The stakeholders, in a document obtained by BusinessDay, said “The NPA and NSC, being the regulatory bodies, must enforce the dropping of empty containers in holding-bays”, noting that “only shipping companies should be allowed to bring empty containers from their holding bays into the ports.”
They also agreed that shipping companies must get approval in advance, from the NPA and port managers, through operators at Apapa and Tin-can Island Ports, for the number of containers expected into the port on a daily basis.
The document was endorsed by Anofi Elegushi, Lagos State acting commissioner for transportation, Elijah Adele, chairman, Apapa Local Government, Godwin Eke, federal controller of works, and representatives of the NPA, NIMASA, Federal Road Safety Commission and the Nigeria Police Force and other stakeholders.
They noted that all tank farm operators should also provide holding-bays for their trucks, and henceforth “terminal operators issuing Equipment Interchange Report (EIR) must indicate the destination point outside the port, for the return of empty containers.”
While agreeing to the restriction of truck movement to Ogere Truck Terminal in Ogun State, the stakeholders in the document, also agreed to open a discussion with the Ogun State Government, for the provision of a larger expanse of land to accommodate more trucks.
Meanwhile, the NPA said it would not be constructing any holding-bay or trailer garage. Rather, the authority will be granting licenses to operators of holding-bays using a call-up system that would be domiciled in the NPA.
Hadiza Bala-Usman, managing director of NPA, responding to enquiry from BusinessDay on how to decongest Apapa, said that the authority was planning to invite private investors to build and run trailer parks, using the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
“We call on the private sector to develop holding-bays and trailer garages, and then obtain licenses from the NPA, to enable the trucks that are parked in their garages to gain access to the nation’s seaports. This will enable the NPA to use the call-up system to control the movement of trucks from the holding-bay to the ports,” she said.
According to her, the NPA has taken over the initial plans which the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) started with an entity that got World Bank funding to develop trailer garages using the call-up system.
“The challenge we had with that plan was that the company submitted a very skeletal document, without being able to draw an outline business case for the project. The promoters insisted that drawing an outline business case with financials, would be selling very confidential information, which was unacceptable,” Hadiza stated.
She further said: “The outline business case is a mandatory requirement for the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), to grant approval for any form of Public Private Partnership (PPP). NPA was forced to wait for the company for six months, without any meaningful result and this is why we are now looking at the option of issuing operating licenses.”
She further disclosed that the authority would be streamlining the requirements expected in a standard trailer park, including the level of IT deployment that must be in it. “If we have five licensees that would build trailer parks, NPA would permit them to leave the call-up system with us for effective traffic management.
Remi Ogungbemi, chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), said that having an effective traffic management system in Apapa, involves building standard holding-bay and truck parks which would make use of electronic call-up systems for all trucks coming to the Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports.
Ogungbemi, who solicited the support of the NSC and NPA to enable its association secure a park worth billions of naira in Orile Igamu area of Lagos State, said that the facility is located 2-3 kilometers away from the two major seaports in Apapa and has the capacity to accommodate 1,500 trucks.
JOSHUA BASSEY & AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE
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