Substandard barges pose threat on our waterways – NIWA cries out

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Substandard barges pose threat on our waterways – NIWA cries out

Abiola Seun     |      

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has condemned the use of substandard tug boats and barges for cargo evacuation by barge operators on the nation’s inland waterways.

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has approved the movement of cargoes through the nation’s waterway due to the perenial traffic gridlock experienced on the access roads leading to the nation’s seaports -Apapa and Tin-Can Island port.

However, since the evacuation from Apapa port to Ikorodu and Epe begins, containers have fallen into the lagoon, thereby posing grave danger for waterways users and loss to cargo owners.

Addressing stakeholders in Lagos over the weekend, the Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Engr. Sarat Braimah revealed that due to the Apapa traffic gridlock, focus is gradually shifting to movement of containers by barges in Lagos.

According to her, the congestion on the road leading to the seaports have shifted port users from the road to the inland waterways with the use of barge.

She said, “Due to the congestion at our ports which was caused by the Apapa traffic gridlock, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) called us for a meeting, and informed us that they have given some people license to lift cargoes by barges using our inland waterways. The routes for cargo evacuation by badges are Apapa to Ikorodu and Apapa to Epe. We were happy with the NPA initiative because having all containers leave the port by road is crippling our port system.

“Unfortunately, just two months after the commencement of cargo evacuation by barges at our seaports, we started having containers falling into the Lagoon, the same way containers used to fall off from the back of trucks on Ojuelegba bridge. However, this time around, the containers were not falling off from the back of trucks, but were falling into the lagoon atop the barges.

“From our investigation, we found out that the problem has to do with the quality of tug boats and barges being used in cargo evacuation at our seaports. We want to appeal to investors interested in moving cargoes by barges to do it right. We would not want to transfer the problem we are having on our roads to our waterways.

“I have told the barge operators to look for funds to ensure they are doing the business properly. I have told them that henceforth, the survey and registration of their barges must strictly come from the NIWA Lagos office. We will only give permit to any barge that we have certified fit and capable of doing the cargo evacuation business on our waters.

“For example, the first mishap that occurred was because the Tug boat had only one engine and was carrying twelve containers from the Ikorodu terminal to Apapa. The containers were being taken to APM Terminal at Apapa port, and all of a sudden, right in the middle of the Lagos lagoon, the only engine of the Tug boat developed fault at Elegbata. With a faulty engine, the Tug boat could no longer maneuver the barge, and the heavy tides of the Lagos Lagoon threw some of the containers off balance on the barge, and they fell into the lagoon. This happened about two weeks ago.

“The second mishap occurred just last week when a barge operator loaded about twelve containers from Apapa port, and the containers fell off because they were double stacked, that is each containers had another one on top of it on the barge.

“Yes, barge operators always tell us that they used to study the tide waves before embarking on their journey, but we have found out that this tidal wave study are not always accurate, due to changes in nature which could occur unannounced. So we have advised barge operators to always play safe because nature cannot always be predicted. If the barge operator did not double stack containers, some of the containers that fell into the lagoon wouldn’t have fell.

“We cannot continue to have containers fall into our waterways. God forbid if a boat carrying passengers was approaching, what could have happened? So we have directed that no barge operator should double-stack containers on our waterways henceforth,” she said at the meeting with badge operators.

Braimah disclosed that some barge owners failed to obtain NIWA permit to operate genuinely, pointing out that a seminar was held recently to reel out guidelines about those qualified to execute such businesses.

Harping on the location where the boats would be situated to monitor movement of illegal barges, she maintained that officials of NIWA would be visible at Lagos Lagoon , Elegbeta Channel and Five Cowrie waterfronts.

”Officials of NIWA would clampdown on erring barge operators who failed to comply to the new directive.”

Braimah reiterated that all barges laden with containers must not be double stacked ,warning that boxes laden on water vehicles must be singularly stacked despite there sizes.

“We got some people licensed to move cargoes through barges from Apapa to Ikorodu and Epe. But we are not satisfied with the activities of the operators and that is why we need to monitor their movements.

“We will commence clampdown on those who do not have permit to operate their barges on Lagos waterways,” she maintained.

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