The cost of transporting containers from Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports, the two main seaports in Nigeria’s commercial capital, has improved in the last year after the introduction of the electronic call-up system, and businesses are the better for it.
The E call-up system, targeted at managing truck traffic into the Apapa Port, has not only helped to reduce congestion within the port city but has also improved travel time for port users, motorists and residents.
Bala Mohammed, a truck owner, who described the call-up system as the best solution to traffic management in Apapa and Tin-Can ports, states that there has been a significant improvement in traffic as trucks no longer clog the bridges, adjourning streets and port access roads.
According to Mohammed, it now takes two to three days for trucks to access the port from pre-gate or satellite parks compared to the days when trucks will take three weeks or one month to get to the port.
“Eto (the E call-up system) has assisted truckers in bringing down the cost of accessing the port. Before, truckers spend between N250,000 and N300,000 to get to the port, but now we spend no more than N30,000 to get to the port,” he told BusinessDay in a telephone interview.
The E call-up has also helped in bringing down haulage cost, which was formerly between N600,000 and N650,000 to load Apapa to Ikeja, or N1 million to N1.1 million to load Tin-Can to Ikeja, but now, Ikeja from Apapa costs between N140,000 and N200,000 while from Tin-Can it is within the range of N160,000 and N200,000, he said.
Currently, importers pay between N370,000 and N400,000 to move one by 40-foot container from Apapa to warehouses in Ikeja, Lagos, while one by 20-foot container costs about N300,000.
From Tin-Can Port, importers still pay between N700,000 to move one by 40-foot container to the same Ikeja while one by 20-foot costs between N350,000 and N400,000 due to problems associated with return of empty containers.
The reduced traffic congestion and haulage cost are a boon for businesses operating within Apapa, whose profits took a haircut in the back due to the unforgiving gridlock.
For instance, NASCON, a consumer goods company, moved 60 percent of its operations away from Apapa in 2019 after the gridlock affected the movement of raw materials, timely delivery of finished goods to customers and increased turn-around time of the company’s trucks.
Remi Ogungbemi, chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), said though the call-up system is helping to address the traffic congestion in Apapa, it has also not performed optimally.
According to Ogungbemi, trucks that normally queue from Apapa to Mushin and Palmgrove before the call-up system no longer queue like that again.
The amount truckers spend to access the port has also reduced drastically, but extortion by the enforcement team remains because there are areas where police still pass trucks in place of the system, he said.
“Why things have not been working as expected is because people that have been benefiting from the chaos still want to be benefiting. This is why they are still looking for how to circumvent and sabotage the system. Whether anybody likes it or not, an automation system for admitting trucks into the port called Eto has come to stay and we can only improve on it,” Ogungbemi assured.
The system does not favour those charging truckers between N100,000 and N200,000 to pass trucks into the port, and such people are no longer getting such monies again, he noted.
While pointing out that truckers still see policemen, LASTMA officials, and Road Safety on the road when it is not supposed to be, he said truckers want the system to work in a way that trucks will remain in their private parks till they receive information that it is their turn to load before they can leave their parks.
On challenges, Eto is still releasing trucks more than necessary, he said, adding that truckers want a situation where trucks would be released according to what each terminal can accommodate at a point in time.
Releasing 500 trucks because a terminal can attend to 500 trucks in a day is not the best, rather the number can be rationed, he pointed out.
“A situation where we are still having human interference is not the best. It is because the system has not been working as expected. If it has worked as expected, we will not need anybody to stand on the road. Eto system is far better than where we are coming from and we are hoping that it gets to a point where the system will work optimally,” he said.
On some of the challenges facing the system, Mohammed said the existence of multiple checkpoints mounted by the enforcement teams including LASTMA, police, FRSC, and NPA security for extortion is affecting the effectiveness of the system.
“No system is perfect at a go. When the truck leaves the satellite parks or pre-gates to the port, it is supposed to move smoothly but because of extortion, we still see multiple checkpoints. This is affecting the smooth batching of trucks to the port. We need the checkpoints to be reduced in order to enhance the batching of trucks into the ports because the system does not need human interference,” he said.