By Godfrey Bivbere
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has charged local barge operators to up their game to prevent foreign shipping lines who are investing in the acquisition of foreign classed barges from taking over their business.
Speaking in Lagos, Head Maritime Safety, Engr. Olu Aladenusi, noted that most Nigerian barge operators do not have classed facilities and some are not even the owners of the barges that they are operating with.
Aladenusi was responding to Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, who said barge operators are complaining about foreigners taking over the operation in contravention of the Cabotage law.
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Bello had gone to visit the Director-General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, to seek support of NIMASA for upgrading its operations ahead of the commencement of the 24 hours operations.
He stated: “NIMASA got a letter from the Ministry of Transportation to work with Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and there has been collaboration between both agencies to reduce the challenges we are having as regards barge operations.
“A committee comprising NPA, NIMASA, National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, and Lagos State Water Management Authority, LASWMA is currently working.
“On the area of protection of Nigerian operators, we have to work very carefully and very fast if we must protect them because we have regulations on building of barges and they are not obeying any of the regulations. These foreigners have started classing their barges; no Nigerian owner is ready to class their barges.
“Right now, VVLs have started building barges for APM Terminals and by the time they come into the business, they are going to send our people out of business. “Barges that we have on our waters today are not barges meant for carrying cargoes, there are work barges, and there are house barges.
“Work barges are barges that are parked by a ship while they are carrying out repairs and you put your tools on it. These are what they converted for use as a result of the gridlock we are having and because of the peculiar problems we have on the roads.
“We are working with NPA, NIWA, and other agencies to make sure that we pull off these barges out of our waters but there is a need to come out with a rule. We must give the Nigerian barge owners the right warning now to start building with class because the job of carrying cargo is a very serious one.”