For a long time now, stakeholders in the maritime sector have lamented about the congestion they face daily around the port environment. Several reasons have also been blamed for this unpleasant development which has caused hardship on businesses within the Apapa area.
To this end, there have been pockets of efforts by the government to address the problem which still lingers.
Commendable as the efforts may be to ease the Apapa area of congestion, it should be noted that a lasting solution can only be achieved when the problem is addressed from its roots.
Some key maritime industry players have noted that the location of some businesses in Apapa, where they should not really be, could account for a part of the problem.
At a media parley recently, Mrs Vicky Haastrup, the Chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria(STOAN), had noted that a number of businesses like the tank farms were not supposed to be situated close to the ports as it is presently.
Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, had at different times made efforts to ease the congestion in Apapa. He had addressed the issue of the danger of having the tank farms located where a number of them are in Apapa and also addressed the issue of trucks packing indiscriminately in the area.
Haastrup has also noted that trucks with containers resorted to using even inner roads like Burma Road and other adjoining roads within Apapa as truck parks.
She said that the experience was particularly painful for the drivers who run from one place to another with their trucks until they got engaged for a job.
She pointed out that the congestion in the area had made it an enormous task for those coming to load or take delivery of cargoes.
Chief Remi Ogungbemi, the Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), had also emphasized on the need to let the port vicinity be used for the purpose there were originally meant for.
He said that back in time, the port environment had dedicated open spaces where trucks parked.
He said that during those periods, no truck ever stayed on the major roads to constitute a nuisance to other road users or made it difficult for access into the ports.
Like Haastrup, Ogungbemi said that the port areas started experiencing congestion when the dedicated open spaces were taken over by different businesses.
He said that a number of such businesses had no reason being in Apapa. He noted that the people who took over those areas did not understand the vital need of the spaces to accommodate allied activities like they are engaged in.
A number of other maritime stakeholders had also noted that the port reform did not consider the need to also turn around the environment which plays an important role in accessing the ports.
Ideally, an industrial area should maintain components that make it function completely. In this situation, there is a need to make available spaces within the industrial area where service trucks can be parked away from the roads.
A more ideal situation in the chain should be a system that would connect the industry services in a technology-driven pattern, such that there would be an e-call-up approach. It would help to monitor the number of trucks that should be at the port environment at a time.
While efforts are being made from some quarters to build a truck transit park opposite the Tin-can Island port, Apapa, a closer look can be taken to see how spaces that are lying fallow can be put to more purposeful use for the benefit of the maritime sector.