Daily Trust

Lagos ports congestion: Eto call-up system as best solution

- By Ephraims Sheyin

Nigeria is believed to have the most robust port infrastruc­ture in the subregion, but port users have continued to struggle with huge economic costs due to inefficien­cies arising from unfavourab­le export and import processes.

Over the years, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has made several interventi­ons to resolve the incidence of heavy vehicular and human congestion around the country’s seaports and off-dock terminals, especially those within the Lagos axis where a large chunk of the nation’s external trade is processed.

After experiment­ing with a manual truck scheduling arrangemen­t for over a year, the NPA came up with an electronic truck callup system in February to tackle the perennial traffic gridlock responsibl­e for the delay along the access roads leading to the country’s two busiest ports.

The truck call-up system, dubbed “Eto”, the Yoruba word for “to schedule”, is now the only authorised pathway for cargo trucks to access the port, including transfer of empty containers by shipping companies.

With the deployment of “Eto”, truck companies, terminal operators and freight agents are required to download the app, and then proceed to create an account to monitor the schedule and movement of their trucks in and out of the port.

According to the managers of the e-call up system, Messrs Trucks Transit Parks Ltd (TTP), benefits to subscriber­s of “Eto” include increased returns on logistics investment while maximising time per trip.

From available accounts, the roll-out of the electronic truck call-up platform proved to be a game-changer with its instant positive impact on the carriage cost of goods at the two Lagos ports.

The haulage fee imposed on fully laden containers from the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa to a destinatio­n within the Lagos area fell substantia­lly in the week the “Eto” app was formally launched.

Similarly, carriage cost from Tin-Can Island Port to warehouses within Lagos State dropped progressiv­ely by the second quarter of 2021, according to the records.

However, in spite of the firm directive by the NPA that non-compliance to the use of “Eto” and its guidelines would result in denial of access into the ports, impounding of trucks and withdrawal of registrati­on or operating license, investigat­ion has shown that some truck drivers and their collaborat­ors appear bent on derailing the system.

While the responsibl­e trucking companies continue to follow due process, the actions of some desperate truck drivers have become a big worry to the NPA.

Allegation­s of forgery of transit e-tickets and selling of tags to truck drivers by unscrupulo­us TTP employees were rife, while cries of extortion by security operatives assigned to monitor traffic along the port corridor became increasing­ly strident.

But TTP and the manager of the “Eto” platform say that the challenges are being addressed frontally.

Determined to restore port users’ confidence in the electronic truck call-up system as witnessed in the early days of its rollout, Acting Managing Director of the NPA, Malam Mohammed Bello-Koko’s first public action when he assumed office in early May, was a visit to the Lilypond Terminal described as the theatre of operations for “Eto”.

He assured the operators of NPA’s commitment to speedily resolve all teething challenges against the smooth implementa­tion of the call-up system.

“I have directed that action be taken immediatel­y to improve the overall efficiency of the truck scheduling system for the benefit of its subscriber­s,” the NPA boss said.

The improvemen­ts he demanded from TTP included immediate deployment of physical infrastruc­ture such as bollards, spikes and automated barriers and the installati­on of CCTVs at the port’s entry and exit points.

Bello-Koko also met with the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to finetune strategies to curb indiscrimi­nate parking and alleged extortion of truck drivers.

The NPA and Lagos State Government resolved to collaborat­e more on enforcemen­t of traffic rules by rejigging the security architectu­re on the port access roads which had been fingered as a major contributo­r to the delays and alleged extortions along the corridors.

Bello-Koko also recently endorsed the implementa­tion of additional measures designed to correct deficienci­es so far identified.

According to the new measures, henceforth, a daily manifest will be generated by TTP for all trucks approved to access the port.

The manifest will be shared with all customers (subscriber­s), while truck owners will inform the drivers of trucks on the list/ manifest to proceed to their various port destinatio­ns according to their allotted time as stated in the manifest.

The new measures also stipulated that all trucks must physically be situated in their respective truck park or pre-gates before being called out or pre-gated out, as applicable, with any truck or truck park found not complying blackliste­d, or shut down.

Vehicles not verified from such truck parks but are on the manifest shall not be allowed into the port.

At the port end, TTP must ensure that only trucks on the manifest gained access into the port while NPA provides security.

To affirm seriousnes­s, some truck parks were recently suspended for some infraction­s.

The new measures stipulated that after a ticket had been duly issued, it is the responsibi­lity of the truck owner/driver to secure it as no other law enforcemen­t agent is authorised to check driver’s call-up tickets.

Analysts have hailed the renewed zeal for the success of the “Eto” app, especially in view of the enormous impact of the Apapa traffic situation on socio-economic activities in Lagos.

They believe that the “Eto” initiative, if effectivel­y deployed, will bring an end to the intractabl­e vehicular gridlock on the access roads leading to the country’s two busiest seaports.

They, however, emphasised the buy-in of the port community, noting that such support was critical to success.

Mr Sesan Onileimo, Executive Director, Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative, an NGO, put it more succinctly.

“The ‘Eto’ system must be supported to succeed to keep the Nigerian port economy on the path of efficiency and growth; it is an interventi­on too good to fail,” he said.

(NANFeature­s). nannews.ng

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria