THE Federal Government recently handed over the Tin-Can Truck Park to MOB Integrated Services Limited, a Management Consulting firm for effective management of the park. In this interview with Vanguard Maritime Report, its Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Tokunbo Ezekwe said that a Bar-coding system in conjunction with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, will be introduced to manage the call up of trucks into the ports. Excerpts
By Godwin Oritse
WHAT informed your decision to go into Truck Park business?
Like I said Apapa is a national embarrassment and people who are successful in life do not look to make money, they look for solutions and they find the solutions to the problems, the solutions make monies for them. So we have come as a company to manage the Tin-Can Truck Park effectively because we believe government is in the position of policy making but the effective management of the facility will be by MOB.
We have a track record of things we have done in the past in Nigeria. We are not new to the business of truck parking, we are willing to work with all the stakeholders.
We have met with the Nigerian Ports Authority at both port and management levels and they are all excited to have us on board. And the Unions are willing to work with us as we will ensure to cut on the excess monies they pay to gain access into the ports.
For a long time, there was this talk about deploying electronic call up system to manage the movement of trucks into the port, are you going to deploy this in managing the Tin-Can truck park?
Yes like I said we are to manage the truck park, the responsibility of trucks going in and out of the ports is that of the Nigerian Ports Authority and Terminal operators. So what we can do, is to key into whatever system they have and we will work with them like I said.
The Nigerian Shippers Council has said over 4,000 trucks try to come into the ports on a daily basis but the facilities at the port cannot take more 1,500 trucks. How do you hope to manage this?
Things can be run effectively. There are ports that are bigger than Lagos ports and if you go through them, you will not know there are ports there. A good example is what I will tell you now. If you go to Tin-Can truck park today, there are terminal operators who want to receive empty containers but the truck drivers will not leave to go and drop the container and for a simple economic reason.
If they drop the container, they must be able to pick another container on their way out but because of the lockdown, the banks are not opened so importers cannot pay their duties and levies so they cannot move containers out of the ports. So we have a stalled movement at the ports because they are stuck there and nobody is moving out because there are no containers for them to pick up.
Having said all that, we all know the capacities of these terminals. For example the Tin-Can Island Container Terminal, TICT, has enough space for at least a 100 trucks. So at any given time, all they need to do is communicate to us saying they need another 100 trucks once they are done with the ones inside.
That would create a free flow of trucks’ movement. The problem of Apapa I repeat is human interface. I give a simple example, a truck coming into Apapa, has over six check points where papers will be checked. Four out of the six can tell you that you are in the call up you can go ahead. The fifth guy can decide and say you are not in the call up, so we must have something that protects both the driver and NPA.
So something must show that look I am actually on this call up. Now drivers are left to whims and caprices of the authorities.
What is the capacity of the Tin-Can truck park?
The facility has capacity for 380 trucks, if you squeeze it and put them on the line, it can take 400.
Can that alone solve the gridlock in that axis?
Well it can and it will, if you look at the number of trucks that come here you may think managing them is not feasible. This whole thing is an issue of throughput. Four hundred trucks come in at a time, if they go out, that simply tells you another 300-400 trucks can come in again. So it is an issue of throughput. I give an example, I do not have anything against people like Dangote. If Dangote releases 150 trucks to the ports, they have what they are going to do, you will be surprised that before the next morning, they are all out of the place. The thing is that they have what to do there so it is an issue of throughput, the turnaround time, that is what we talking about.
How would you overcome this issue of human interface?
This is my suggestion, I am not a government person in charge of whatever. You have identified truck parks, all you will need to do is to call trucks from the truck parks. This is what they are doing at the moment but there is an issue of sentiments. There are people or operators called priority.
Why should there be priority? They should define who is priority. I give a good example, there is a company probably not even owned by Nigerians, they call them priority but they are going to do the same your regular truck owner is going to do in the ports. Why they are priority, we do not know up till this moment. The issue of priority needs to be defined.
If BUA, Honeywell and Dangote who have their own terminals at the ports and they are going to engage their trucks immediately, it makes a lot of sense for you to give them time to get into the ports. But they must be called because in this priority thing, there is guise for people to come in as well and do what they are not supposed to do.
Will the use of a barcode system eliminate the issue of human interface being experienced at the ports?
Absolutely, the terminals and the truck parks should work with the NPA. It is a simple thing. If you have a barcode, a man stays there with a barcode gadget, he will check the barcode given to the truck driver.
When you press your gadget and it is red, you know you are not supposed to come into the ports, you can’t pass. Like I said it is human beings that will also check these barcodes.
What is the salary of the security official of the Nigerian Ports Authority or whoever that is there? These people are bringing N50,000 they will look the other way and allow them to pass. There are lots of factors leading to the road block.
About using the waterways to move cargoes
It is a fantastic idea, good, but there must be some sort of control.
What did it take you financially to get the concession of the Tin-Can Island Truck Park?
I would not say it was our financial consideration, it was more of our technicalities. We showed that we had the capacity and capability to manage the truck park. We came with our technical partners and showed them what we were able to do and after due consideration I think there were others who also applied to be management consultants but it came out favourable for us.
How long are you supposed to manage that facility?
We will have it for the next four years and if at the end of four years we did a good job, we can start talking about concession afterwards.
What will it cost MOB to update the facility in terms of upgrade?
Like I said, we are going to put up a lot of infrastructure at the park like automated barriers, screens and possibly the barcode in conjunction with NPA and it is going to cost us some money.
What is your budget for this facility upgrade?
The budget for upgrade from my last calculation is about N180million.
So what are you giving back to government?
Fifty percent of our earning goes to the government.
What are your projected returns on investment?
There are lots of uncertainties; if you ask me this question three months down the line I will be able to answer it. I think the issue should not be the return on investment but our ability to effectively manage the park that will bring the ease of traffic in that axis.