FOLLOWING protest and subsequent withdrawal of services by truck operators at the Apapa and Tin-Can ports over failure of the truck call-up system introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ease cargo congestion at the ports, port terminal operators under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has warned that Nigerian importers may face imposition of congestion surcharge running into over $120m per annum by international shipping lines.
This is even as the Federal Government has summoned the leadership of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) to Abuja over the withdrawal of services of its members.
Disclosing this to Tribune Online in an exclusive telephone chat, President of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi said he is in Abuja on Tuesday following the summon of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
According to Chief Ogungbemi, “I cannot talk on the strike action embarked upon by my members at the ports for now because I am already in Abuja to see the SGF, on the issue.
Hopefully, the problem at the ports will be resolved with his intervention.”
In a related development, the Spokesman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (NPA), Mr Bolaji Akinola, stated recently that a new truck call-up system introduced by the NPA has created a heavy backlog of cargoes at the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Port Complex. He described the NPA call-up system as “intolerable, unnecessary and ill-advised”.
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The STOAN Spokesman added that the new system has brought the two ports to their knees and is capable of leading to the imposition of congestion surcharge running into over USD120million per annum on Nigerian importers by international shipping lines.
In the words of Akinola, “The Nigerian Navy developed a call-up system for trucks, which instilled sanity in Apapa. The Navy truck call-up system worked well as it led to tremendous improvement in traffic management in and around the port.
“However, officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for self-serving reasons and selfish motives upturned the working system instituted by the Navy.
Without any form of consultation with relevant stakeholders, NPA threw out the Navy’s call-up system and replaced it with one that has now created a serious mess at the ports.
“NPA now insists that only trucks that are coming from shipping companies’ holding bays can enter the port. But where are the holding bays? Besides, the implementation of the so-called holding bay policy is retrogressive, uncoordinated and in total disarray with NPA security officials now feeding fat on the attendant chaos.”
Akinola said operation at both the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex have been paralysed and the ports are “fully congested”.
He added that “As we speak, less than 50 containers go out of the port daily as against more than 700 that used to go out before NPA imposed its highly objectionable policy on the system.
“Apart from the thousands of containers trapped in the port, the dreaded Apapa gridlock is back after three months of respite and sanity. The little gains recorded in the maritime sector as a result of the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business at the port have now been fully compromised by NPA.”
Akinola said truckers are frustrated by the NPA directive and have decided to register their displeasure by embarking on a strike action.
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He called on NPA to scrap the policy and allow the Navy to continue its traffic management system, “which has served the port community well and eased the Apapa gridlock”.
When contacted, the Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of the NPA, Mr Isah Suwaid, promised to get back to our Correspondent. However, he didn’t get back to the Tribune Online as at the time of filing in this report.
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