How NPA eliminated gridlock in Apapa

For the last three months, traffic in and out of Apapa metropolis has been relatively free.

This could be attributed to the infrastructure deployed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Trucks Transit Parks (TTP) Ltd, NPA’s partner, and the Lagos State Government.

These physical and digital infrastructures were deployed under the electronic call-up system popularly known as ‘Eto App’ for controlling the movement of trucks into Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos.

BusinessDay understands that to facilitate the use of Eto, there is physical infrastructure development, stakeholder management and collaboration, and deployment of technology.

First, on February 27, 2021, the trio introduced the electronic call-up system for organising, scheduling, and batching trucks into ports in Lagos.

Findings show that this has helped the Ports Authority to bring the over 12-year long traffic gridlock in Apapa under control, thereby enabling ease of cargo movement in and out of Nigeria’s major seaports, Apapa and Tin-Can.

Read also: Apapa: NPA says gridlock down 80% on Eto App infrastructure

Giving insight into the electronic call-up, Mohammed Bello Koko, acting managing director of the NPA, said recently that the deployment of infrastructure under the electronic call-up system for trucks has been able to eliminate the persistent Apapa gridlock by more than 80 percent.

According to him, traffic on the Apapa-Ijora axis has been verifiably reduced by over 80 percent while the remnants of the gridlock on some of the port access roads were due to the hiccups occasioned by the poor state of the Tin-Can Port-Mile2 corridor.

The NPA boss blamed the failure of Eto App around Tin-Can Port access on the poor state of the road networks on the Tin Can, Cocoa Nut –Mile2 axis, which is presently going through various stages of reconstructions.

To implement the electronic call-up system, the NPA in collaboration with the Lagos State Government and other relevant stakeholders, developed about 29 truck parks across Lagos State.

Out of the 29 truck parks, about eight have fully deployed the Eto infrastructure, which includes automated gating systems and other Information Technology (IT) equipment.

Speaking on a television interview in Lagos last weekend, Bello-Koko said that the electronic call-up has been able to streamline cargo evacuation and truck movements, thereby bringing a level of sanity to the roads.

“Apart from a few isolated cases where some truck drivers try to subvert the system by not adhering strictly to the truck manifest requirement, the electronic call-up has brought sanity to Apapa,” he said.

He however assures port users that as soon as the road construction around the Tin-Can Port access road was completed, the gridlock would be completely eliminated.

Aside from the call-up system, the NPA also started enforcing the use of railways in the movement of import and export cargoes in and out of states in the hinterland.

For instance, on October 3, 2021, a Kano-based exporter moved about 100 tons of millet direct from Kano to Lagos Port via rail. The rail also had passengers on board the coaches.

“I spent almost 50 percent less as haulage cost to move my millets in containers from Kano Railway Station to Lagos Port. If these cargoes are to be moved by trucks, the goods worth millions of naira, would have cost me more,” said the exporter, who did not give his name.

According to the exporter, who told his story through a video, business activities have started taking place at the Kano Railway Station after 20 years.

Confirming this, Bello-Koko said that the authority is currently promoting multi-modal transport systems through the use of railways and barges for the movement of cargo in and out of the ports.

He said the development has tremendously reduced congestion at most terminals at the ports, thereby helping to improve ports efficiency.

“Some barge operators have been licensed by the authority in order to ensure effective and safe operation. A regulatory framework has also been developed, which looks into the state of the barges being deployed. When we approve the deployment of the barges, we discovered that many of them did not have communication equipment and we directed them to install such equipment. We also insist that these barges must be seaworthy before they are allowed to sail in order to forestall a situation where they break down at the middle of the channels, which could cause disruptions,” he explains.

He however disclosed that the NPA is also developing an electronic call-up system for the barges to enable their ease of movement.

Also, the NPA introduced a new policy for the management of empty containers. This policy compels shipping lines to take back at least 80 percent of the loaded containers that they came with for every voyage in empties and export cargo.

“Over time, we discovered that most shipping lines were storing their empty containers in Nigeria, which was cheaper for them but we introduced the policy whereby shipping companies were directed to take back 80 percent of the loaded containers they brought to the country from the stock of empties and export cargo. This has helped to reduce the number of trucks laden with empty containers that were waiting on the port roads,” Bello-Koko explains.

NPA also implemented ‘Operation Green’ which enabled the Ports Authority to clear all illegal structures and shanties on port access roads in Apapa that also contributed to inhibiting the free flow of traffic in the area.

The electronic call-up, no doubt, has largely helped to bring back traffic sanity in Apapa but pundits believed that the TTP, Lagos State, and the NPA have to go back to the drawing board to find a way of bringing everybody including (tankers) on the same platform to enable them organise, schedule and batch truck movement in and out of Apapa.

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