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Recently, evacuation of cargo in and out of the nation’s major seaports in Lagos, Apapa and Tin-Can, became very tough for cargo owners due to issues with persistent traffic gridlock along the routes leading to the ports.
This was largely due to the bad state of roads to Apapa and uncontrollable parking of container carrying trucks and trailers, queuing on the roads and bridges to Apapa, just to have access to the ports and petroleum jetties to lift laden containers and petroleum products.
Consequently, the Office of the Vice President, issued a two-week ultimatum to truckers to vacate Apapa roads and bridges with the aim of restoring law and order in Apapa and its environs. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and other agencies of government in the port, were mandated to implement the order with the NPA being the lead agency.
The Presidential order, which was issued middle of last week, came three weeks after the NPA started implementing new measures aimed at resting the gridlock problem bedevilling movement of people and cargo in and out of Apapa.
First, the new measures started with the NPA converting and opening the Lilypond Container Terminal to Truck Transit Park, which is presently serving as temporary parking spaces for trucks coming to both Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports.
The Lilypond terminal, which was made available to service trucks carrying containers that have business to do in Apapa port, was opened for business on Friday May 3rd, 2019 while Tin-Can Second Gate Trailer Park, which was billed to be opened the same time to service trucks going to Tin-Can Island Port for business, was shifted to mid-June as the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing, is yet to put finishing touches to the basic facilities needed for a transit park.
“We have setback regarding the Tin-Can Truck Park because the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing requested the NPA to give them till the first two weeks in June to put amenities like lightening, security facilities, and toilets in place. However, we are using Lilypond to manage traffic into Apapa and Tin-Can Island Port,” said Adams Jatto, general manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication of the NPA.
Meanwhile, at the opening of these truck transit parks, the NPA promised to deploy its towing vans with the assistance of LASTMA officials, to towing any defaulting trucks found parking on the roads and bridges leading to the ports in Lagos.
In view of this, the NPA, which promised truckers that the parks would be used free without charges particularly at the interim, said that a fine of N20,000 surcharge would be imposed on any defaulting trucks.
At the opening of Lilypond Park, it was discovered that thousands of empty and export containers have so far transited to the port through the park since it was opened on Friday.
Also, the NPA sends trucks in batches to the road from the terminal in line with what the terminal operators want while majority of the container carrying trucks parked along the Ijora Bridge were cleared off the highway, thus allowing some smooth ride into Apapa.
The opening of the truck parks will enable the NPA to implement an integrated call-up system to deal with the emergency traffic situation along Apapa corridor, said Sekonte Davis, executive director, Marine and Operations of the NPA, at a sensitisation workshop on traffic management/use of Lilypond and Tin-Can Island Truck Terminals held in Lagos recently.
According to him, the new measures would be implemented in collaboration with the shipping companies’ holding-bays, adding that the new call-up system would only be generated and managed by the NPA.
“Trucks without empty containers would not be allowed access into the ports areas. With the new measures, trucks that want to pick laden containers must first go to the shipping companies’ holding-bays to pick empty container meant for the terminal from where the truck is going to pick laden container,” he said.
Davis, who said that the NPA would prioritise exports and containers of perishable goods that have full documentation, pointed out that such containers would be allowed into the parks and would be given maximum staying period of 48hours.
He assured truckers that military and other uniformed personnel would soon be disbanded from mounting checkpoints on the roads while a new taskforce would be set up by the NPA to enforce the new measures.
Ihenacho Ebubeogu, general manager security of the NPA, said the traffic in and out of Apapa would be managed by the LASTMA, police, FRSC and the NPA security officials.
“Henceforth, the NPA forbids trucks and trailers to park on the bridges to Apapa. And the new trailer parks will not be opened to trucks that are not in the call-up system because the parks will serve as transit parks and not permanent parking spaces,” he said.
BusinessDay understands that the new presidential order issued to consolidate the NPA’s effort in managing the Apapa problem, no doubt, contributed to the low volume and low cargo throughput being recorded at the ports.
Reacting, Remi Ogungbemi, chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), who commended the NPA for the new measures, described them as workable solutions to Apapa gridlock.
He assured the NPA of the commitment and compliance of members of his association towards the workability of the new measures.
“It is even an aberration for the government to use military personnel to be controlling traffic. Military personnel cannot be the solution to solving Apapa gridlock. One of the solutions was converting Lilypond into transit part, which the NPA has done and it can accommodate about 1,000 trucks,” he said.
In addition, the management of the NPA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with APM Capital to begin the use of barges for evacuation of containers from the ports in Apapa to Epe.
Speaking when she hosted a team from AP Moller Capital in her office in Lagos on, Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the NPA, said the problem of Apapa access road seemed intractable because of decade-long decadence in infrastructure, which was caused by multiplicity of problems.
She said the NPA would continue to consult with stakeholders across all levels in area of providing the needed infrastructure, since this was crucial for sustainable ports operations.
She however assured that NPA would build on the synergies that exist with stakeholders to ensure the ease of doing business at ports.