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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

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

“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.

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