Regulators step up intervention

By Evelyn Usman

FLOWING from the backdrop of the stifled road transportation in Apapa area of Lagos, the waterway alternative is now under threat over unsafe and inadequate regulatory oversight.

The area had witnessed the introduction of barges and tug boats to move containers from the ports to different parts of Lagos through the waterways. They also move human passengers inwards and outwards of the Apapa area.

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However, some barge operators are now exploiting the situation to overload barges, thereby jeopardising the safety of humans and goods on board. Already, the effect of these overloaded barges has begun to take its toll on crew members as there have been two incidents where some crew members reportedly lost their lives after their ships sank.

A recent incident occurred last Tuesday, around Apapa, where the containers that were being conveyed to Ikorodu area of Lagos, went underground with the unidentified captain narrowly escaping death.

To address the issue of safety and security on the waterways, members of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria held their maiden safety workshop in Apapa, where regulators from agencies under the Ministry of Transport and other stakeholders were in attendance.

Speaking at the workshop, the Area Manager, National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Engr. Sarah Braimai, expressed displeasure over the loss of lives due to what she described as negligence and lack of safety consciousness on the path of some owners of tug boats and barges.

As first step to curtailing future occurrence, she ordered that henceforth, double staking of barges would not be allowed. She said: “Double stacking cannot be allowed. When you double stack, there will be no way to check what is happening at the back. We don’t want it to be a case where conductors will be directing. It is sad that containers are falling on the road and killing human beings. We don’t want such in our waterways. Sad enough within two weeks we have had two incidents. To enforce this, our officers will be stationed at the loading and discharging points”.

She also directed that movement of barges and tug boats at night would no longer be tolerated, noting that most of the tug boats were without navigational aids.

To hold barge operators responsible for any misgivings by their crew members, the NIWA’s area manager said: “This will be our new policy: as from next year, we will not register any barge without pumping machine onboard. Also, any boat that is not registered will not be allowed to work in Lagos. I want to be held responsible for any survey that fails. In one of the incidents recorded, the tug boat was discovered to be working with just one engine. If that engine fails what will happen? We will not allow such to continue.”

On his part, Senior Marine Engineer, Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA, Engr. Ukeme Sunday, called for barge operators to have necessary protective gadgets such as VHF communication gadgets and life jackets.

He noted that “some crew members onboard tug boats within Lagos don’t wear the ideal life jackets which materials are waterproof. Many tug owners jeopardise the safety of crew members on board by using ordinary cloth material as life jackets. It is also important that if any captain or crew member is not feeling too well, it is not ideal for them to work”.

President, Barge Operators Association of Nigeria, Mr. Ekeme Kelikume, explained that the workshop was aimed at ensuring that operation on the waterways was done within global best standard.

He noted that barge operations, especially in Lagos, was increasing, as more people were coming onboard, hence the need to put structures in place to harmonise the operations as well as create a standard that would prevent loss of human lives and cargoes.

He said that the association had its enforcement team which carries out spot checks and report any badge operator found wanting to the regulatory bodies.

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