By Amaka Agwuegbo
Nigerians are said to be hardworking people who have little time or no time for something as essential as leisure. But when they do, a boat cruise is not your everyday form of leisure or relaxation â€“ not even in Lagos, a city that is surrounded by water -ocean, islands, lagoons, etc.
Though not your everyday kind of business, venturing into boat acquisition, cruise, and rentals is not for the faint-hearted, especially when considering the not-so-conducive Nigerian operating environment.
But one man who is determined to bring this form of relaxation to ever-busy Nigerians is Ondo State born Mr. Victor Ominisan, who has been into boat rentals and organizing cruises for 12 years.
This Ijaw man grew up in the midst of boats and water as his father owns several boats in the village.â€œBeing an Ijaw man did not in any way influence my going into this business, though growing up by the waterside contributed to my achieving this lot.
â€œWhile growing up, I wanted to become a lawyer, but that was I dream I could not achieve due to unforeseen circumstances. I went into boat rentals as a means of survival since it was just about the only way I could put food on my table because getting a job in a bank or an oil company is more of an illusion in Nigeria.â€
An undergraduate of Public Administration at the Lagos State University, Victor had his marine training at the Madatory School, Oron, Akwa-Ibom State where he ran a 6-month course to prepare him for the job ahead.
â€œI went to the Madatory School for a 6-month course to complement my practical knowledge about boats and its maintenance, and this has really helped me to be better at what I do.â€
The owner of ODADA Marine said the business is very profitable, but declined to reveal his profit margin.
â€œThough this type of work is quite profitable, but the only snag is that patronage peaks mostly weekends as that is about the only time people can take a break from their engagements to relax.
â€œI have four boats which I rent out, but some individuals and companies have entrusted their boats to me for renting. What I do is that, depending on the bargaining power of the person that wants to rent the boats, I add a certain amount to the price set by the owners which is my cut since I donâ€™t take a commission from the owners.â€
Explaining how long each boat cruise lasts and where the patrons are taken to, Victor said: â€œDepending on the type of boat people want, the boats could be rented for the whole day or a couple of hours.
â€œBasically, we take people to either Ilashe or Ikare beaches. We can also go to Warri, in Delta State, but it is quite expensive and takes about 14 hours for a return trip through the creeks and 4 hours through the sea.
â€œA ride in a banana boat costs N40,000 while a trip on the sharp mouth boat costs N55,000. We also have bigger boats which go for between N100,000 â€“ N150,000, depending on the size.
â€œThe banana boats are called so because they are small and depending on the type on engine installed, it costs N400,000 to build one.
â€œThe sharp mouth boat, which is larger than the banana boat, costs N4 million and comes with 8 Japan Yamaha 85 engine worth N1.8 million. But both are built in Lagos.
â€œThe bigger boats which we rent for N150,000 are very expensive and are. I make a profit of about N75,000 from renting one of those.â€
On the challenges faced in the line of duty, Victor said the major challenge is the not to conducive weather whereby they have to work under the harsh sun.
â€œInasmuch as we are making money off this business, but the harsh sun is making it quite challenging to be in this business since we practically work under the sun.
â€œAnother major challenge is maintenance of the boats, especially when it comes to oil for the engine. Boats use a different type of oil from motor vehicles. Boats use Quick Silver oil and this costs N12,000 for a 4-liter gallon which may last for one week, depending on how often the boat is used.
â€œFuel consumption depends on the type of boats. Outboard boats, which are boats with their engines on the outside, use fuel and one boat consumes 75 litters for a 40-minutes ride.
â€œInboard boats are those with their engine inside and some use fuel while some use diesel. A ride of 40 minutes ride consumes 100 liters of fuel. All these make it difficult to maintain a fleet of boats.â€
For a new entrant into the business, Victor said all that is needed is for the person to buy a boat and register with the Lagos State Inland Waterways.
â€œAfter registering the boat, if he wishes to keep the boat in a boat club, you register with the club and pay subscription fees. But if the person has a seaside house, he can moor the boat close to his house.â€
So passionate is Victor that, within a couple of years, he hopes to have his own boat club where people can come to either park their private boats, rent boats or have their boats maintained.