No fewer that 3,000 containers are trapped inside the Lagos Port Complex Apapa as a result of the lockdown created by a new policy introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on the return of containers to the port, a port official said.
The official said trouble started when NPA management at the port decided to take over the control of traffic in and out of the port area from the Nigerian Navy.
He said the NPA officials, without prior warning, upturned the Navy’s truck call-up system and decided to create a new arrangement “without informing anyone about it”.
A truck driver, who identified himself as Sulaiman Adeoye, confirmed that the new policy led the truck drivers to down tools on Tuesday and Wednesday in protest.
He said, “They (NPA) just suddenly came on Monday and said that all trucks must first go to a shipping company’s loading bay from where they are to be called into the port. Unfortunately, this is contrary to the arrangement being implemented by the Nigerian Navy, which has worked very well and has eliminated the Apapa gridlock.
“The new NPA arrangement forces all trucks to go the loading bays but there is no modality for how they’re to come into the port from there. The new arrangement has led to chaos in the port and cargoes are trapped even as trucks are trapped at the loading bay. This action just does not make any common sense.”
Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, who also confirmed the development to journalists in Lagos, said the truckers are agitated by the new policy because “it is still alien”.
According to him, the new directive is not going down well with the truckers because they are at the receiving end of the policy.
He said, “NPA is saying the terminal operators should give them the list of containers they want to load and number of trucks they are expected to load the previous day before they start coming the next day. But this does not go down well with the truckers because they are confined to a situation whereby some people stay on the road for days. So that is what is generating the issue.”
An official of one of the terminals at the port, David Ugwuagwu said the action by NPA has created confusion in cargo operation at the port and led to a huge backlog of containers, which should have exited the port.
He said, “This action by NPA is unexpected and most unfortunate. It is even uncalled for. The Navy call-up system is working very well and everyone has commended it. The gridlock has disappeared and cargo movement has become much better.
“However, for reasons best known to them and without consulting any stakeholder, NPA officials at the port decided to truncate the working system put in place by the Navy. The idea that all trucks coming into the port must first go to a holding bay is rather preposterous.
“The worst part is that they did not create any process by which these trucks will depart the holding bay to the port. We now have a massive build up and imminent congestion at hand. We exit no fewer than 1,000 trucks a day from the port but believe it or not, only about 50 trucks have been able to take containers out of the port since Monday when the chaos started.”
He said the NPA action was limited only to the Lagos Port Complex Apapa, while operators at Tin Can Island Port are going about their normal business activities.
Nigerian Ports Authority officials did not respond to enquiries on the matter. The spokesman of the organization, Abdullahi Goje, did not return calls made to his phone.