Operators in the maritime sector have said that the electronic call up system for trucks which is proposed by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) would fail unless the agency embarks on mass evacuation of empty containers from the ports and fix the dilapidated port access roads.
The NPA has said that the electronic call up system would take effect at the ports by August 2019.
In preparation for this, the agency has also cancelled its concession agreement with Lillypond Container Terminal, reclaiming the land for the purpose of converting it into a holding bay.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily last week, Vice Chairman of Tin Can Island Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Mike Ossy said NPA must first direct all shipping companies and their vessels calling at the port to evacuate empty containers equivalent to what the vessel is bringing in.
He also said that the overtime cargoes at the ports are more than the fresh imports coming in; he said the terminal operators, especially Tin Can Island Container Terminal (TICT) are constrained for space.
He argued that most of the trucks littering the port access roads are bearing empty containers but there are no spaces for the terminal operators to receive them.
He said "The only thing NPA can do is to stop the shipping companies from receiving any ships here, until they have vacated all the empty containers, if this is done, there would be space for them to receive more empty containers"
"I have worked in a shipping company before and i know that shipping companies have been given a mandate, if you are arriving a port with 1,000 containers, going back, you must go with at least 800 containers, the remaining 200 is for those who would like to buy containers, but now people are no longer buying empties"
"The best bet is for NPA who concessioned all these terminals to embark on mass evacuation of empties and a mandate should be given to the terminal operators for overtime cargoes to be transported to the warehouses"
"The moment this is done, you would see the access road decongested.
There should be a standby team to ensure that any vessel coming into the country leaves with empty containers or they get sanctioned" he said
The ANLCA Vice Chairman also advised that there should be a standing committee set up by NPA to move round weekly and inspect the holding bays purportedly owned by shipping companies and how many containers they are absolving back from truckers.
He argued that what drives people away from the holding bay is the money being charged from truckers, he said shipping companies are not supposed to charge money for dropping of empty containers.
"The shipping companies are enjoying what is happening here because of the container deposit they are taking"
"The call up system proposed by NPA cannot work as long all these boxes are still inside the terminals and littering the access road"
"NPA said they have taken back Ijora for dropping of empty containers but this cannot solve the problem, if you start using the Ijora Terminals, it would get filled up under two days, how do they want to take the containers back to where they are coming from when the ones in the port are not leaving", Mike Ossy said.