Haulage charges,which had gone up from N120,000 to N700,000 within the last two years in Lagos due perennial gridlock and extortion at port access roads are gradually coming down due to slight improvement on the roads.
Prior to the latest development, importers had been paying exorbitant charges and high rent on goods to terminal operators and truckers because of delay caused by traffic gridlock and port inefficiency.
Last year, the National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero, complained that the cost of transporting a 20 feet container from Tin Can/Apapa ports to Alaba International Market in Lagos jumped from N200,000 to N400,000, while 40 feet container cost between N700,000 and N900,000.
Also, he noted that the cost of transporting a 20 feet container from Tin Can/Apapa to Kaduna was N900,000, while it cost N1 million to transport a 40 feet container from N600,000 previously.
Other charges include the cost of evacuating and transporting containers, illegal charges by shipping lines, extortion by security operatives and loss of container deposits due to late return of empty containers.
Another factor is that extortion by security operatives has been reduced as the Presidential Task Force in charge of traffic at the Apapa port has reduced the gridlock.
The task force was set up as a result of a presidential directive, which ordered the removal of trucks on bridges and roads in Apapa as well as the restoration of law and order on the port roads.
The Vice President of National Association of Roads Transport Owners (NARTO) Dry Cargo section, Mr Abdullahi Mohammed, told New Telegraph that truckers had stopped paying between N60, 000 and N70, 000 to security operatives.
He said that extortion at the port road had assumed in a new dimension, stressing that some security operatives not assigned to the port roads were using hoodlums to extort money from truck drivers.
He said: “We have stopped paying money for parking space. You know before now, truck drivers pay as much as N60,000 to N70,000 to the officials of the Nigerian Navy and other military formations just to gain entrance into the port.”
In order to bring sanity to the road, the truck transit park being constructed by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing at Tincan Island was forcefully opened three weeks ago by the Presidential Task Force in order to forcefully to decongest the road.
Also, Abdullahi stressed that the Lilypond container terminal at Ijora had been temporarily converted to holding bay for trucks and empty containers.
Also, as part of efforts to tackle the challenges of doing business within the port environment, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, also noted that the management of the authority had introduced the automation of Call Up System (CUS) for trucks and other incentives given for the transfer of cargo through barges from Ikorodu, Epe and Ijegun among others.
The outcome, according to Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), had made haulage fares charged by truck owners to drop by 40 per cent.
It was learnt that importers now paid N240,000 instead of N400,000 for 20 feet container and N420,000 instead of N700,000 for 40 feet container within Lagos.
As part of efforts to further reduce the cost of container haulage, NSC noted that it had presented new rates to stakeholders at a conference in Lagos.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello, noted that plans were ongoing to establish a well-structured haulage rates and services for the road transport sector for port stakeholders.
He said: “The haulage rates are determined by supply and demand, but there should be benchmarking so that foreigners and investors would know that they have an idea of how much it costs.”
According to Bello, the council embarked on consultation with the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Federal Road Safety Corps, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Union (NUPENG), Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and other unions on how to bring the haulage changes down in the port industry.
Bello attributed the fall in haulage rate to efforts of the Presidential Task Force monitoring the traffic.
He said that the haulage rate was artificial because it was occasioned by the traffic and extortion.
Bello said: “Now that the traffic is leaving and there is order and sanity, the traffic rate has dropped. We are also helping by bringing sanity into the terminals, sometimes; it is what happens in the terminal that causes the traffic, so we try to achieve efficiency in the terminals so that there would not be congestion.”
Bello also assured that the new haulage rate coming up would guide transporters and port users.
There is need for government to establish a wellstructured haulage rates and services to encourage importers to use the nation’s seaports. This will
reduce diversion of cargoes to neighbouring countries’ ports.