Association of Maritime Truck Owners AMATO has said that its members are not opposed to the introduction of any form of regulation, especially under the proposed automated truck call-up system.

The Nigerian Ports Authority NPA had established two truck terminals at Ijora and Tin Can Island Ports area as part of preparations for the introduction of modern traffic management system, also called the automated truck call-up system, which requires trucks to remain at the terminals until they are called up to lift or discharge cargo at the ports, billed to takeoff sometime in September, 2019.

This was sequel to a study carried out by the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, which showed that more than 7,000 trucks call at Apapa daily while only about 1, 600 are actually needed to either lift or discharge cargo at the ports, thus leaving a glut of about 5, 400 trucks.

Chairman of the association, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, who spoke at a roundtable session organised by the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria MARAN in Lagos, Wednesday however warned that only the building of modern transport infrastructure can address the problem of perennial gridlock on the nation’s seaport access roads in Apapa, not deployment of taskforces or military.

According to him, over the years, members of the association have continued to clamour for the introduction of truck automated call-up system as part of efforts to check the indiscriminate parking of trucks and other articulated vehicles on port access roads and bridges in Lagos, which contribute significantly to the worsening gridlock in Apapa.

He noted that world over, businesses are adopting the option of automation in order to reduce cost, enhance efficiency and turn -around time, citing the instances of banking transactions and airline flight bookings, which can be done these days from the comfort of one’s office or home, using modern automation equipment.

While insisting that trucking, which plays a crucial role in the global supply chain cannot afford to remain manual in this 21st century, he however noted that the right infrastructure must be put in place to drive the automation, citing the instances of banks, airlines which made massive investments over the years in infrastructure that supports automation.

“Infrastructure is key to the automation of trucking in Nigeria’s maritime industry not establishing of taskforces and deployment of gun- wielding military men. No amount of deployment of taskforces and the military can resolve the issues around the traffic congestion in Apapa, as we have seen over the years.

“Regulation of the movement of trucks and articulated vehicles in and out of the seaports is also good and desirable but the right infrastructure such as modern truck terminals and empty containers’ holding bays connected to the waterways must be put in place to facilitate seamless movement of containers to the ports.

“Even eatery operators provide parking spaces for their customers’ cars and vehicles not to talk of seaports that require constant movement of cargo using heavy trucks and articulated vehicles. Sometimes we continue to wonder whether those that planned and executed the port concession planned that movement of cargo would be done using motor bikes”, Ogungbemi said sarcastically.

On the threat by operatives of the Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority LASTMA to clampdown on rickety trucks, he noted the primary cause of ricketiness of the trucks remains the poor state of the roads, which wear them out fast and over a short period, they become rickety.

He also attributed the problem to the poor state of the Nigeria’s economy, which has made in almost impossible for truckers to acquire brand new trucks, which he said cost between N30million-N40million per unit, wondering how many trucks they could acquire at such unit price.

“He said: One of such ‘rickety’ trucks provides food for over 40 Nigerians, comprising the owner of the truck, the driver, his assistant and the mechanics and their families as well as other dependents, who earn their daily bread from the proceeds of the trucks”.

While appealing to the operatives of the FRSC and LASTMA to exercise caution in their proposed clampdown, Ogungbemi assured that the association will continue to talk to its members to adhere to minimum standards for their trucks, especially things like rear lights and screen wipers that can pose a threat to other road users.