Battling Shipping Companies and Terminal Operators Holding Bay Crimes  – ByAsuquoNuwak
Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Vice-chairman, Dry Cargo chapter, Lagos State branch, AlhajiAbdullahiInuwa recently re-stated his determination to support the enforcement and implementation of operational modalities for container movement and equally accused shipping companies and terminal operators of developing cold feet in the face of increasing traffic congestion of trucks within Apapa port and its environs.

He equally accused Nigerian ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) of being incapable of enforcing the use of empty container holding bays as a pre-requisite for shipping companies’ registration.

The vice-chairman made this declaration at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) held at Dutse, Jigawa State.

AlhajiAbdullahiInuwa said that “anybody who refuse to implement the document on operational modalities for container movement which was signed by Nigerian ports Authority on 8th March 2012 and the recent communiqué on stakeholders meeting on Apapa traffic qridlock held in Apapa Local Government Secretariat on 2nd October 2017 is not doing so in the interest of the nation and the people but to its selfish interest.”

After several stakeholder’s meetings and facilities assessment of terminal operators as well as evaluation of access roads to the ports, it was agreed that henceforth, only shipping companies would be allowed to bring empty containers from the holding bays into the ports with approval in advance from Nigerian Ports Authority, while the port managers through the terminal operators at Apapa and Tin Can Island ports will indicate the number of containers expected into the port on a daily basis.

The agreement is seen generally as a failure as the shipping companies has bluntly refused to comply with the resolution within (7) seven days period as stipulated in the agreement document. Essentially, the agreement equally calls for joint sanctions by Nigerian ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety Agency and Nigerian shippers’ council against those who refuse to use shipping companies empty container holding bay for consolidation.

Above all, he urged ports economics reforms committee, under the vice-president, YemiOsinbayo to compel shipping companies and terminal operators to enforce and implement operational modalities for container movement.

The agreement further calls for continued inspection of trucks, while unhealthy trucks would be barred from loading in the ports. It was, however, clear that terminal operators would be sanctioned for loading trucks without healthy truck certification.

In the growing tension, Nigerian ports Authority is mandated to inform the cargo owners and agents to return empty containers to the shipping companies holding bay and no longer directly to the ports.

Under the agreement reached at the meeting, all identified government truck terminals and holding bays under concessionaire should be returned to original intended use for maximum utilization. For example, Lilypond truck terminal, AME truck terminal and JakandeTruck Park, while all tank farm operators were directed to provide holding bay for their trucks.

According to the terms of agreement, relevant government agencies would address the infrastructural decay and rehabilitate all major access roads in and out Lagos Ports and Apapa environs. Apart from this, Nigerian ports Authority, NIMASA and NSC has to appeal to shipping companies to give waivers on trucks which are returning empty containers during restriction period.

Beside, Nigerian ports Authority, is to work out a working ratio of number of import  container and the number of empty container, a vessel must take away in order to reduce the volume of empty container in the country.

Initially, there were high hopes that the new agreements would go a long way towards solving the identified problems of Apapa traffic gridlock. Some of these problems, as identified by the stakeholders include bad roads. For example, Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and Apapa/Ijora roads which link the ports and depots are in deporable condition, which claims many lives, cause damages to trucks, debts incurred by importers, clearing agents, truck owners and loss of man hours.

The report revealed that security agencies along these corridors extort between N15,000 to N20,000 from each truck before accessing the ports. The report also revealed that others pay between N35,000 to N50,000 to fly expressway against the traffic.

With good reason, and as part of its corporate social responsibilities, Nigerian Association of Road Transport owners in Tin Can one to three (1-3) and Alaba units in conjunction with its National Secretariat has spent close to N3,000,000 (Three Million Naira) on road palliative work. The aim is to fill potholes along the axis, save lives and protect their investment.

AlhajiInuwa, however, urged the National president of NARTO, Alhaji (Dr) Kassim Ibrahim Bataiya (Durbin Alabsu) to compel other members to support the palliative works in order to fill the potholes, save lives and protect their investment. “A desperate problem deserves a desperate solution”. And ever since, NARTO and other stakeholders have been persistently crying against enormous challenges confronting them on daily basis.

Meanwhile, let NPA, NIMASA, NSC put heads together and set in motion a machinery to recall shipping companies and terminal operators into order before they ruin our economy. Besides, he expressed his dismay over the incessant arrest of truck drivers and truck owners and impounding of truck by officers of Nigeria customs service for offence the truck driver and truck owners do not know anything about, neither do they have an idea of what is in the container.

He therefore called on National president of NARTO, Alhaji (Dr) Kassim Ibrahim Batiaya (Durbin Albasu) to settle the issue of arrest of truck driver and impounding of truck with the comptroller – General of customs (CGC) Col. Ahmeed Ibrahim Ali (Rld) for peaceful co-existence.

He decried the deplorable condition of roads around Tin Can, Coconut and capital oil depot by Trinity. He further called on government to do everything within its power to address Apapa traffic gridlock in Apapa and its environs.

The problem ahead is how ports economic reforms committee can compel shipping companies and terminal operators to enforce and implement operationalmodalities for container movement in order to have free flow of traffic.

The resolution of the stakeholders is still a long way off in spite of an agreement arrived at various meetings.  “We don’t have the right to keep preserving the power of NPA, NIMASA and NSC that showed it inability to sanction defaulters? If the terms of the agreement were adhered to the perennial Apapa traffic gridlock would soon come to an end.

A similar agreement was entered into between shipping companies, terminal operators, freight forwarders and transporters to find lasting solution to traffic congestion on 8th March 2012. According to its terms, all shipping companies were to have functional holding bay for the storage of their empty containers.

Also, “on the advice of shipping companies, all terminal operators must indicate on delivery documents the holding bay to return the empty containers. In another development, shipping companies in agreement with terminal operators are to issue in advance a list of containers intended for transfer to the terminals from the holding bays.

Beside, the list should be given to Nigerian ports authority and LARPAC for monitoring and compliance. Under the same agreement, all empty containers must be returned directly to the designated holding bays of shipping companies after discharge at importer’s location. While such transfers from the holding bays to port should be done in the night.

He commended the effort of Lagos State Governor, AkinwumiAmbode, who has been friendly and supportive to transport operators in the state. He demonstrated this feat through the suspension of LASTMA and VIO Officers over indiscriminate arrest of trucks, imposition of fines on trucks and provision of LASEWA RESCUE UNIT (LRU) equipped with heavy duty towing trucks and Cranes for rescue mission, free of charge to transport operators.

He equally commended the effort of National President of NARTO, Alhaji (Dr) Kassim Ibrahim Bataiya National Deputy President, ChiefAyoolaSadiku, South West zonal, Prince Ganiyu Salami and AlhajiSikiru A. Kaka, who has been supportive to enormous challenges confronting them.

In conclusion, the challenges of Apapa traffic gridlock can make sense only if the ports economic reforms committee, under the vice-president, YemiOsinbayo compels shipping companies and terminal operators to enforce and implement the document on operational modalities for container movement as was signed by Nigerian ports authority on 8th March 2012 and to enforce the document on communiqué at stakeholders meeting held on 2nd October 2017 at Apapa Local Government Secretariat.