… as truckers battle new freight charge regulation
By Samson Echenim
There are indications that the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) will begin its long awaited automated truck call up system this August. A leading seaport truck owner operating in Lagos ports told business a.m. that the NPA in collaboration with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council were working to eliminate physical factors in the cargo delivery process.
Speaking with our correspondent at the Nigerian Shippers Council headquarters in Apapa, Lagos, Remi Ogungbemi, chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (Amato), also said it would be very difficult to implement a new freight rate regime introduced by the Shippers Council to attain standardisation of transport charges in Nigeria.
He feared that since the cost of truck parts and other costs are not regulated, it would be impossible to regulate transport charges on cargoes from the ports.
He said, ” I have spoken with the executive secretary of the NSC, and my concern has been that it will be very difficult to achieve the regulation of freight because there is no price control for tyres, engine oil, lubricants and vehicle parts.
“There are other expenses that truck owners run, which are difficult to pen down. There are so many cost factors that cannot be quantified. How will one explain a situation when you pay N50,000 before you can enter the port?
‘That is why I say if government can also help to surmount all these problems we face at the port, then we can say it can work because it is not in the interest of the owner of the truck to be spending so much.
According to him, truckers are forced to bribe security agents in order to gain access to the port after staying on the queue for many days.
‘”As a result of frustration, truck owners offer money to security agents so that they can have access to the port. Your truck can be on queue for three weeks. So we are looking forward to how government can invite technologists, let them sit down and bring out techniques that can work to address this problem,” he said.
He continued, ‘I am talking of a system that will be devoid of human contact. Just as the apps works for the banks, we want something that will work for truck call up at the ports. We want things to work at the port the way they work for the passengers at the
airport. If our system can be made to work same way, we would just be somewhere, may be a park and be waiting for our call up that would come in form of an alert. It could be any time of the day or night.
“However, I want to appreciate the management of the NPA with the collaboration of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council because in this month, August, they will start the automation system. I believe that by the time they start that automation, the problem would be solved somehow, either [way] there would be improvement.”
On freight rate regulation by the Shippers Council he said, “I have not seen the freight rate. The most important thing here is that it is the market that determines the price. If the demand is high, of course, the rate would be high, but if the demand is low, the price will come down. If government wants to regulate the rates, it has to first take care of the hiccups in the system, otherwise, I don’t see how it will work. But I pray that it will work because, it is better for all of us.
“Right now, prices of truck parts are going up arbitrarily. Prices are going up everyday. Shippers council is the economic regulator of the port, but I have only mentioned the hindrances to making its regulation work. It has to create the enabling environment to make its regulation work. Under normal circumstances, every operator should be under that regulation, so that nobody goes higher or lower. Though, we call it a benchmark.
“There are situations you want to take a container to Ikeja and they tell you it’s N300,000, there are times, the cost could be N150,000, whereas sometime in the immediate past the truckers charged N300,000.
“So it is purely determined by market forces. In Nigeria today we are operating a free market system. You know how much you bought your goods and you know how much you should sell it in order to make profit,” he noted.