By Okezie Nnadi
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has decried the incessant blocking of the Apapa/ TinCan ports access roads by trucks carrying empty containers due largely to the inability of shipping companies to provide stacking bays for empty containers being returned by customs agents, even after collecting container deposits which are not refunded in many cases.
Discussing ways around critical issues in the Maritime industry in a virtual meeting with Heads of maritime Journalists recently, the Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman said that the shipping companies should take charge of picking and transporting empty containers from their holding bays to their terminals.
According to Usman, ” the challenges with empty containers have continued unabated, the shipping companies have been making a lot of money off the agents, in 2011, the NPA tried to enforce that but the shipping companies found a way around it, this time around we must ensure they laid down order.”
On the the Apapa gridlock, she says, “we need to have all the five modal forms of transportation working, we thank the Hon. Minister of Transportation for his passion to link Apapa with rail,” this, with other measures being taken she said will go a long way to ease the gridlock.
On other measures to ease the Apapa traffic gridlock, The NPA says it is going to adopt stricter licensing procedure for barge operations in the nation’s waters, there will be the new licensing for 2021 to smoothen the rough edges of barge operation, to have a more robust way of going about it
This, it maintains, is a way of stemming the inherent abuses the sector has been subjected to by stakeholders in recent times.
Usman, also revealed that from Thursday, February 27, 2021, any stray truck found on Apapa road, would be impounded. This, she said, was because the Electronic Truck Call-up system introduced by NPA, would kick off that day.
According to her, eight truck parks have been approved and are ready for use as parking lots for truckers doing business in Lagos ports. The truckers, she says, must download the E-call-up software before getting access to the port.The second leg is to have it called up electronically, operators will have a dashboard where schedule for movement will be tracked. She revealed the NPA is working with the Lagos state government on this and warned that those trucks not called up will be impounded by LASTMA and Road Safety.
On the TinCan access road, Usman says, Apapa/TinCan needs a parking Lot that can accommodate three thousand trucks, she revealed that consultation is on going with stakeholders.
Usman enthused that the rebate given to the Eastern ports have helped improved ship traffic at the One and Calabar ports and other ports with the expected delivery on approved deep seaports in different locations, citing Onne, Lekki in Lagos, Ibom in Akwa Ibom, as examples. While the NPA continues to seek to improve on deployment of infrastructures in these ports.