MD NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman

Ahead of the February 27, 2021 date for the commencement of the new electronic call-up system for trucks operating at the ports in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA has warned it would deal with any shipping line that fail to comply with the new empty container management system.

Recall that as part of efforts to curtail the perennial gridlock on port access roads in Apapa, which hampers efficient port operations, NPA had developed and electronic call-up app codenamed the ETO under which over eight truck terminals with capacity to take over 3,000 trucks for a start have been established.

Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who spoke with maritime correspondents during a virtual interactive session, warned that NPA would withdraw the operating license of any shipping company that fails to comply with the new regulations on the management of empty containers which requires them to receive the empties from the consignees and transfer same to the port.

Meanwhile the authority has also developed a Standard Operating Procedure SOP on barge operations to ensure efficiency and professionalism in the movement of cargo out of the seaports.

The MD also disclosed that under the new regulations for empty containers, the shipping lines are required to export not less than 65per cent of their annual cargo volumes in empty containers, saying that over the years the shipping lines had taken advantage of the gridlock to deny consignees of their container deposit refunds.

The MD said: “Over the years, empty containers have been a problem, if a consignee wants to drop his empty container, he is unable to do that because of the congestion on the roads and he loses his deposits. Shipping companies have been making huge sums of money from that.

“We have now insisted that consignees would drop their empty containers at the holding bays of the shipping companies and collect back their deposits and if the shipping companies claim they have no space, there is help line for the consignee to notify the NPA. Now it is the responsibility of the shipping companies to arrange and return the empty containers to the ports not the consignees.

“We realised that there may be pushbacks because people have made money from the bad situation and so would want to continue making money. One of such pushbacks is that a shipping company that has over 20, 000 empty containers might just provide a holding bay for 2,000 and tell the consignees that it does not have space to receive the empty container.

“Another pushback might be from other vested interests, who have been ‘flying’ the trucks into the ports. Under the new system, it is only through the ETO app that trucks can be called in and we have requested for a dashboard where the call-ups on first come basis would be displayed for transparency.”

She however disclosed that some shipping lines, especially the big ones have complied with the provision of holding bays, as she had to make it a requirement for approving their annual licenses but warned that any one that fails to comply before February 27 would face stiff sanctions.

On barge operations, she disclosed that the SOP would list all the documents needed for the licensing of barge operators in order to ensure professionalism and safety of cargo, hinting that a barge sank recently around Ikorodu area of Lagos, which should not be allowed to happen again.