HOW APMT FRUSTRATES US- APAPA TRUCKERS By Sylvanus Obasi
Foremost container terminal operator and concessionaire of the Apapa Container Terminal,AP Moller Terminals , comes under accusations of foisting hardship on truckers through alleged inadequate personnel and equipment
Chanting songs calling for removal of APMT from the nation’s port system, the truckers recently stopped work for some hours to drum home their angst against the company.
“Nigeria, we don’t need APMT again! AP Moller must go for not performing! APMT equipment are all outdated! APMT must go oooo”! were some of the inscriptions boldly written on the placards by the visibly angry truckers who recently protested what they called inefficient operations of AP Moller.
In their numbers, the protesters, comprising truck owners, truck drivers and their conductors, all of which were members of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), and the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Operators (NARTO) staged a protest in front of the ever busy entrance gate of Apapa port.
According to them, their major grievance was that they could no longer bear the hardship which APMT has been inflicting on them for not having enough manpower and machine that will attend to their trucks whenever they drive into the terminal to either load containers or. drop empty ones.
They also complained how they suffer hunger and fatigue by being kept seated and waiting in their trucks inside the terminal for hours and days with no body attending to them.
They blamed APMT for being partly responsible for the current gridlock in Apapa because of delay in loading trucks in their terminal due to lack of enough manpower and machines.APMT handles the highest volume of containers in the Apapa area.
Mr Frank Ohaeri, a truck driver narrated their ordeal this way,”the problem of this congestion is caused by AP Moller. Your truck will go inside to load; for 8 hours, it has not loaded. Imagine when your truck is there 8, 10 or 24 hours or even more, and it has not come out, what will happen outside?
“And you know that it is when a truck loads and goes out that it gives chance for another truck to enter. We know that we have a problem of bad road; but if the lane is moving, no matter how slow it is, you will know that you are progressing. But when you stay one place for hours, you can imagine what will happen behind”, Ohaeri stated.
Lamenting AP Moller’s incompetence in terminal operation, the truckers alluded to what they called the company’s inefficient operations in South Africa which according to them led to its eviction from that country years back.
Speaking further on the cause of their plight, Ohaeri said, “but the major cause is AP Moller because they are inefficient. They don’t have enough machines and enough manpower. One person is operating 4 machines: he will load here; leave that one; go to another. Before he could come back, every where is congested.
“That is why we are saying they should leave Nigeria! They were in South Africa before and they were pursued because of their incompetence; and they are here, manifesting the same incompetence”, the angry trucker lamented.
To corroborate what Mr Ohaeri said, another truck driver who gave his name as Eze explained how the terminal operators sent him out of the terminal due to faulty cranes, after waiting several hours for them to load his truck.
He specified some loading points in the terminal where loading has been stopped indefinitely as a result of broken down cranes.
“7C, 3B, 4B, 6C & 5C- They are not working there. All the cranes there are bad. My vehicle went in since 6am and they drove me out now (2.30pm), saying that I should go out because the crane is bad; and they don’t know when they will repair it. They said I should go with my TDO”, the truck driver narrated.
When contacted the image-maker of APMT, Mr Bolaji Akinola described the truckers’ accusations as unfounded. He explained that his company has no hand in the current Apapa gridlock because the gridlock is caused by three major factors which he identified as lack of a holding bay for trucks, which makes them park indiscriminately on the roads; over-concentration of tank farms in Apapa as well as the failure of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway as entry point to the port due bad road which now forces every body to enter the port through Ijora-Wharf Access Road.
Akinola also debunked the claim of truckers that APMT lacks sufficient manpower and equipment to discharge its services effectively. He maintained that the company has more than 22 cranes working in Apapa port.
“We have more than enough. APMT has about 22 rubber gantry cranes which are working effectively at the terminal. And we also have professionals on ground.
When you have about 22 cranes, there is no way all of them will break down at a time such that it will affect operations. It’s not possible! Even if there is a mechanical breakdown of one or two, there is a workshop inside the terminal where they are quickly repaired”, Akinola stated.
According to the Treasurer of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Apapa chapter, Mr Okeke Hyacinth, what the truckers are protesting for is true.
Okeke stated that besides lacking in equipment, APMT is “not also trustworthy on its promises and services”. He revealed that the matter was part of the issues discussed in a Joint Freight Forwarders Association meeting held recently; after which, he said a committee that would visit the company on that matter and other related issues was set up.
In his words: “I can confirm to you that what they are protesting for is real because sometimes, a truck goes inside to load, and 3 days, it has not loaded. I have called the white man in charge, he said he would do something; but didn’t do anything.
I have also called Mr Ibe, the assistant to the white man, still he didn’t do anything. Even their trouble booth can’t do anything also. By Friday, agents will meet them and tackle them one on one”, Okeke stated.
On his own, another freight agent and maritime activist, Mr Pius David admitted that AP Moller lacks enough machines. According to him, “Yes, they are lacking in terms of equipment because those truckers you see who are protesting over lack of equipment, they are on ground; they are operational people.
“They are drivers and motor boys; so they are allowed to go in there. If there are insufficient machines to lift containers, what they are telling you in essence is nothing but the truth. If someone else is saying that they are saying it for saying sake or to criticise the management of AP Moller, it is not so because they have observed this thing over time.
Even we agents, we have said this thing severally before, that AP Moller don’t have enough equipment. Even the ones they have are obsolete. And they don’t work efficiently. Therefore, they should put their house in order”, the maritime activist said.
Similarly, another freight forwarder, Comrade Stephen Ibe who spoke as a guest on MARITIME PLATFORM Radio programme recently confirmed that APMT lacks enough fork lifts to load containers or receive empty ones. He disputed Akinola’s claim that the company has over 22 rubber gantry cranes working in the terminal.
“For Mr Bolaji Akinola to say that AP Moller has about 22 fork lifts; then what is causing the go-slow at the gate of Apapa Port where AP moller is handling? What caused the protest by truck drivers the other day? Do you see that kind of protest at TICT or Port and Cargo?
“In TICT or Port and Cargo Handling Services, they have new fork lifts that they put inside their terminals which take containers from stacks to examination bay; and immediately you finish your examinations, the cranes come and pick your containers and put to wherever you want to put it to”.
Speaking further, Ibe accused the staff of AP Moller of being stubborn and not responsive to the plights of Nigerians. He said that he has complained a lot of issues to the company which the management has failed to address.
In all of this, however; it is obvious the concession agreement of the terminal operators are begging for a review, leaving one to wonder why there hasn’t been any such review since 2006 that the ports were given to private operators under a concession arrangement. But whether there are signs that the federal government is now thinking in this direction is yet to be seen or deciphered.