The Nigerian Navy (NN) on Thursday blamed shipping companies and their outrageous demurrage charges on articulated vehicles for the gridlock crippling Apapa and its environs.
Outgone Commander Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT Rear Admiral Okon Eyo said it was the unfair demurrage charges which were between N14,000 to N24,000 daily the shipping companies made from truck owners for empty containers that had made them not to be alive to their responsibilities.
Eyo, who was chairman of the interagency taskforce on Apapa gridlock, stated this during an interview with reporters after handing over headship of the base to Commodore Ibrahim Shettima.
According to him, it was unfair for the shipping companies and terminal operators to deliberately abdicate their responsibilities of taking these containers which the truckers are billed to return within stipulated period of time just to rip them off the money deposited and bill them more.
He said: “We also have problems with processes; I am talking of the sequence of doing things within the port. A lot of the facilities have been conscessioned and people are doing legitimate businesses but with terms and conditions observed in the breach.
“The terminal operators, the shipping agencies have seriously abdicated their responsibilities. They were expected to have holding bays when new porters have finished with their containers, they need to deliver the empties to those holding bays for the shipping companies to organise and evacuate same in an orderly manner but this is not done.
“As if that was not enough, you will see them slapping huge demurrage and I tell you the single most challenging factor in managing the gridlock is the demurrage. The demurrage is operated in a way that when you take your goods, they give you a few days of grace. Once that grace period is over, they start charging the truckers from the huge deposits they had collected in advance until they exhaust the money.
“You see, all these people here (articulated vehicle drivers) are chasing the port in order to go and terminate that demurrage. When they get to the port after all the things that they passed through, the person who is to admit them into the port is the one collecting this money, in the first place and so, he does not have any incentive to open the gate for them. Hence, he keeps them outside which means more money for the shipping company and terminal operator. This kind of charges are not justified.
“If I suffer and bring your container and get to your facility, I have met the obligation that I have with you. If you have problem and you cannot receive the container at that time, and I am kept outside, bearing the container on my truck, I think it does not require deep understanding to know who should have the responsibility of payment at that time.
“I brought the container, if you cannot take it, you should be paying me but the reverse is the case. The people still stay outside there and they pay you. They pay ranging from N14,000 to N24,000 daily. So, it drives them crazy because they want to save their businesses.
“There is hardly anything you will tell anybody at that time that they will listen unless you are standing there with a gun and he is forced to obey you. But after that, he cannot conduct himself in a way that will allow sanity to prevail and that is not their fault.
“We need to remove that scourge of demurrage. If the demurrage is removed, I believe we will have serious relief.”
Meanwhile, residents have continued to lament the return of these vehicles on major highways especially Oshodi-Apapa Expressway causing untold hardship to motorists.
The Nation reports that articulated vehicles had for some days now blocked the service and fast lane inward Apapa leaving in its wake, bedlam that stretches up to Iyana Isolo on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
It was observed that some of the trucks were being repaired on the expressway, just as commercial vehicles have resorted to plying against traffic on the other lane of the dual carriageway.
Lamenting the growling experience, a motorist told our Correspondent he spent over five hours between Cele Bus Stop and Toyota on Wednesday night, adding that he had been in the traffic for over an hour at the time of discussion on Friday.