• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria embraces mobile tech to save multibillion port losses

Apapa-port-Terminal

A mobile app, as simple as it appears, could in a few weeks mark the end of persistent traffic gridlocks in Apapa that cost businesses multibillion naira losses, exposing truck drivers to extortions, and the inflation passed to the average consumer in making up for the high cost of haulage.

Its success, though, subject to how it is embraced by truck drivers, and the ability of the different law enforcement agencies to respect that the mobile app named ‘Eto’ will now override unscheduled pickups at the nation’s main ports in Lagos.

Usually, truckers pay between N70,000 and N200,000 per truck as gratification to different layers of officials involved in manual control of truck traffic around Apapa in order to have access to the ports. But with the introduction of an electronic call-up system, truck management would be automated, resulting in limited human interference.

The need for an automated system to order movement of trucks coming to the port at any given time is, according to Remi Ogungbemi, chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), due to increase in population and vehicular traffic in the country with available infrastructure unable to accommodate the volume of trucks coming to the ports.

“All the trucks cannot be loaded at the same time. It has to be one after the other,” he said.

It has been estimated that regulating truck traffic would help save about N140 billion weekly in economic loss to man-hour loss, costs associated with delay in cargo clearance such as payment of demurrage and storage charges to shipping companies and terminal operators, as well as running cost of ships due to congestion at port terminals.

It is also estimated that there is about $10 billion annual loss to damages on perishable agro-export products that get trapped on their way to the ports, and this can be saved if electronic call-up succeeds in achieving seamless movement of goods in and out of the port.

In addition, it would help to save the bridges around Lagos Mainland and Apapa, which are old and fragile, and thereby conserving public funding that could be used for repairs.

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has partnered with Trucks Transit Parks Limited (TTP) in deploying the electronic truck traffic flow. The process is expected to facilitate the efficiency and productivity of the ports scheduling, park, truck and traffic management through the Eto platform.

Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director, NPA, who said the authority had been engaging with stakeholders since the past four months, assured port users that the system would remove rent-seeking from traffic management as embodied by security agents.

“The e-call up would see to removing human intervention and make it electronic. By so doing, we are going to create a dashboard, which would be public for everybody to see how the trucks go in and out of the port,” she said.

While acknowledging that the electronic call-up for trucks is a welcome development, Ogungbemi noted that absence of a technology that would inform every trucker when to come to the port to load was why several trucks cluster around the port area at the same time.

According to Ogungbemi, truck associations have started sensitising their members towards the take-off this month, adding that truckers are currently engaging with the company appointed by NPA to manage the automation.

If the authority allows the same people who were involved in controlling truck traffic during the time Nigerian Navy was in charge, and those among the just disbanded Presidential Task Team, to be part of this automation system, they will manipulate and monopolise the system for their own personal interest, he said.

Adamu Yusuf, a truck driver, recalled how the trucking business had suffered on account of gridlock, saying truckers were always willing to abide by the rules if it would help better their business.

“We know that no system is perfect. It is when we start using it that they can identify areas that need to be adjusted, but we believe it would work if Nigerian factors are not allowed to jeopardise this good intention,” Yusuf said.

Eto would be based on an electronic call up system through which truck movements would be scheduled from the originating points of the trucks, to a park, then to a holding bay/pre-gate and then programmed in batches (on a first-come-first-served basis) to access the ports.

To be given access, trucks would be expected to remain within approved parks until they are scheduled to access the ports, and this would prohibit illegal or indiscriminate parking of trucks along the roads.