Following moves by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, to streamline operational processes within the port ecosystem, the agency yesterday suspended the processing of trucks into the terminals by virtual parks.
In a notice issued to stakeholders on Tuesday, the management of NPA through its partner Truck Transit Parks, TTP, said that all virtual parks on the Eto platform are halted immediately and shall remain so until further notice.
In the notice, TTP said that all coming into the ports must have been processed via the Eto platform and through a physical truck and pre-gate or an export processing terminal.
Part of the notice reads: “As part of the ongoing efforts to streamline and optimize the operational processes within the port ecosystem, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has directed that processing of truck through virtual parks should be suspended.
“Therefore, the operation of all virtual parks on the Eto platform is halted effective immediately and shall remain so until further notice.
“All trucks arriving at the ports shall have emanated from an NPA approved physical truck park, pre-gate or export processing terminal without exception.
“Kindly note that all categories including Reefers containers & Fish trucks will continue to have unhindered access to the port BUT will go through an approved park before coming to the ports.
“We are cognizant that this directive might warrant adjustments in your operations. Your cooperation and understanding during this period of evaluation and adjustment are greatly appreciated, as we collectively work towards improving and enhancing the efficiency of our port operations.”
Reacting to the development, the Secretary General of the Association of Maritime Transport Owners, AMATO, Mr. Bala Sani Mohammed said that the virtual park was created for diplomatic and export cargoes so as to create a window to process the evacuation of these categories of cargoes.
Sani Mohammed however said that the virtual truck parks have been abused and used to move trucks into the ports fraudulently.
He said: “The virtual truck parks were created to take care of perishable export cargoes so that they can get to ports as soon they are processed via the virtual truck parks but the entire process has been abused.”
Another trucker, Yinka Aroyewun commended the decision by the NPA to suspend the operations of the virtual parks, describing the action as a significant step towards rectifying the irregularities and fraudulent practices that have plagued the call-up regime.
“We have mentioned numerous complaints regarding various irregularities attached to operations of these virtual parks. These complaints have raised concerns about the transparency, fairness, and accountability of the system. Therefore, we applaud the Nigerian Ports Authority for taking swift action in response to our concerns, as well as those raised by other stakeholders.
“In light of the suspension of the virtual parks, we kindly request the Nigerian Ports Authority to initiate a thorough investigation into the proceeds of the fraudulent virtual parks. It is crucial to identify and hold accountable those responsible for any fraudulent activities, as this will help restore confidence in the call-up regime and ensure a fair and efficient system for all stakeholders” he declared.
Speaking further, Aroyewun stated that; “We seek clarification on other critical issues pertaining to the truck call-up regime. These issues have caused significant hardships for our members and have raised concerns about the transparency, fairness, and effectiveness of the system.
“We request clarification on the necessity of conducting joint inspections to ensure that approved parks meet the criteria for approval. It is imperative that truckers have access to secure and suitable parking facilities that comply with the required standards. Therefore, we seek clarification on the specific criteria and procedures for park approval, as well as the involvement of relevant stakeholders in the inspection process. This we requested in a letter earlier written to you but have not received a response from you. We are the users of the facilities deserve to know about the parks.
“We demand a clear policy statement regarding the complete ban on the movement of trucks on a priority basis, such as the case of booking cold room containers through a group. The lack of clarity on this matter has resulted in confusion and unfair treatment of truckers. We urge the Nigerian Ports Authority to provide comprehensive guidelines and regulations that outline the circumstances under which priority movement of trucks is permitted, ensuring equal opportunities for all stakeholders.
“We demand an immediate audit of the monies paid to the virtual parks before their suspension. The allegations of fraudulent practices and irregularities surrounding the virtual parks have raised serious concerns regarding why the same amount of money is paid for garages with facilities and virtual Parks, we need an audit of the recipient of the money meant for park owners in the case of the Virtual Parks. It is crucial that a thorough investigation takes place to identify any misappropriation of funds and hold those responsible accountable.
“We request a formal apology to truckers for the hardships they have endured as a result of the failures of the electronic call-up regime, particularly under the management of Truck Transit Park Limited (TTP). The inconsistencies and inefficiencies of the system have caused significant delays, financial losses, and frustrations for our members. Furthermore, we request the immediate unbundling of the call-up process to ensure a more efficient and reliable system that addresses the needs of the industry.
“We expect a prompt response addressing our concerns and providing the necessary clarifications. The Council of Maritime Transport Unions and Associations is committed to working collaboratively with the Nigerian Ports Authority to resolve these issues and establish a fair, transparent, and efficient truck call-up regime that benefits all stakeholders” he concluded.