Great conversation on the use of algorithm to improve traffic efficiency along Apapa port. My suggestion was not done without an understanding that Nigeria needs to build/develop/upgrade ports in other areas like Ibom and Calabar in order to divert traffic from Lagos ports. When Lome (Togo) overtook Lagos as the regional port leader, I wrote:
“Nigeria has stalled on building the Ibom Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom. With Ibom seaport, one thing would happen: most containers for Aba and Onitsha will avoid Lagos for Ibom. When that happens, Lagos port will improve as traffic has been diverted. More than 70% of things imported into Togo are destined for Nigeria; a working port in Lagos will move the traffic back to Nigeria. Yet, no one wants to get Ibom seaport running.”
The thesis of my recent call for the deployment of algorithm is that it can be done in weeks, with immediate impacts, over new ports that may take years especially now Nigeria’s tax receipts can barely cover its recurrent expenditure. Simply, I do not expect any new major infrastructure project to be started in coming years as we do not have the money. Our near-term challenge is simple: find money to meet recurrent expenditure while capital projects could wait. This happens when population growth rate is faster than economic growth rate, triggering an expectation-dislocation: everyone needs government even when the government does not have the resources.
This algorithm is a low-hanging fruit and does not need to cost much. This is a top-level protocol:
- Build a web or mobile app. Register all trucks entering Apapa with requirement that a truck must be registered for at least a week before it can enter the port.
- Take an empty land near Ogun state as a standby park where any truck that plans to enter Apapa must park until given instructions to move to Apapa.
- When a truck reaches that park, a sensor picks its plate number automatically and assigns a queue number to it. The driver gets an SMS accordingly. The Apapa port control team is also alerted that a new truck is on the queue.
- The truck stays there until it receives an alert that it can be moving to Apapa. It will be given a time window which it must enter the port.
- Once it gets to the port, the sensors at the gates will validate that this truck is cleared to be allowed into the port. The truck makes it in and does its business.
For any truck that does not have a pass to enter, but shows up in port, will be marked for violation. The truck will be fined and after two violations will be suspended from entering the port for two years. The key thing is to move the process from human systems which can be rigged to a largely full automated system where opportunities to manipulate the process will not be evident.
With this simple algorithm, Apapa will run more efficiently. There are things that need to be fed into a simple code – time from park to port, nature of business for the truck inside the port, etc.Possibly, we can improve efficiency by mid double digit. And it does not need to cost much I must note. I will be happy to install my Zenvus Loci in all the trucks (between park and port) to help on dynamic queuing of the trucks.
Yes, you still need to build or upgrade more ports. But this algorithm next week will not hurt.