The Tin Can Island Command of Nigeria Customs Service has proposed the replication of the Uber Car Service and similar call-up taxing systems in maritime trucking to check the worsening gridlock on port access roads with attendant negative effects on trade facilitation in the country.

Deputy Comptroller in charge of Enforcement of the Command, DC Dera Nnadi, who represented Comptroller Abdullahi Musa at the Second Continental Conference and Annual General Meeting of the African Women in Maritime WIMA with the theme: “Trade Facilitation for Africa’s Integration-Prospects and Challenges, observed that the gridlocks that characterise the port access roads were not caused by the deplorable poor state of roads alone.

According to him, though the roads were constructed when the nation’s population was about 50 million people, which is now tending towards 250 people with the increase in consumption and cargo throughput and thus require expansion and upgrade, fixing the roads alone may not totally address the problem, insisting that the gridlock might persist even after the roads are expanded and fixed.

According to him, though efficient and modern transport infrastructure was need to enhance trade facilitation, the place of effective traffic management mechanism through call-up systems cannot be overemphasised, saying that appropriate agencies should study and adopt the Uber taxi call up system for maritime trucking in the country to completely eradicate congestion on the roads.

“From any part of Lagos for instance, the prospective passenger calls to the Uber network and depending on your location, an Uber taxi picks you up in a matter of minutes, which can be replicated in the movement of trucks and cargo in and out of the seaports as against the current situation where trucks queue on the access roads”, he said.

He also regretted that several years after series of reforms in the maritime industry, the transport segment, which he described as a crucial aspect of port operations and necessary for trade facilitation, has yet to go through reforms to conform to modern and globally accepted methods of trucking, which also constitutes bulk of the challenges in the movement of cargo in and out of the ports.

The TCIP Customs- boss also regretted that several years after, maritime trucking has been left almost exclusively in the hands of single individuals, who lack the financial muscle to acquire new and road-worthy trucks as against the global practice where consolidated companies and fleet managers with the requisite capital base and experience are allowed to do the job with optimum efficiency and professionalism.

He said: “In addition to properly addressing the trucking challenges as part of efforts to promote trade facilitation in the country, urgent attention should also be given to the issues of storage facilities within and outside the port terminals. Issues of warehouses should be promptly addressed to create more space and optimise the capacity of the ports”

According to him, the relevant authorities should take urgent steps to put into effective use the off -dock terminals as well as the Inland Container Depots ICDs spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country in order to make the ports truly transit areas as against the current practice where many of them are being used as storage areas.

He also urged the Federal Government to revamp the seaports and related facilities in other regions in the country to reduce the pressure and over-concentration on the seaports in Lagos, which he said would go a long way in addressing the challenges associated with the movement of cargo in and out of the ports.

A high point of the two-day event was the inauguration of Mrs. Jean Chiazor-Anishere as the new president of WIMAFRICA. She takes over from Mrs. Rosa Sobrinho, who was elected three years ago.

In her acceptance speech, Chiazor-Anishere pledged to sustain the giant strides of the outgoing regime and also intensify international cooperation, especially with the International Maritime Organisation IMO as well as intensifying mentoring for younger women in and outside the maritime industry.