The Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) has announced plans to shut down all barging operations following the increasing cases of accidents involving barges within the Lagos waterways.
A video, which surfaced online, last week shows how containers loaded with Television sets on a barge fell into the waters around the Kirikiri axis while another occurred at Mazamaza area along Mile 2 area.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos on Monday, President of BOAN, Edeme Kelikume, expressed worry over the huge influx of unlicensed and unidentified operators in the barging business, which he said has made it difficult to manage the situation when accidents occur.
Kelikume, who decried the incessant barge accidents on the waterways identified the use of substandard barges licensed by some approved government agencies, substandard jetties and improper loading of containers on barges at the jetties and ports as major factors responsible for the accidents.
“When you have substandard jetties, there is every possibility that you will have accident situations due to the substructure of the jetty that is exposed to tide changes. Another factor that we discovered was improper loading and lack of load balancing at the loading locations both at the jetties and at the ports resulting in situations where they load but the consignment is not balanced on the barge.
“Of concern also to barge operators, which has contributed to some of these accidents is the lack of due process and standard operating procedures at the ports. The unprofessional act of living barges unattended to by tug boats have also contributed to some of these accidents. It is expected that every barge that is berthed at the port area must have a tug boat attached to it so when there are accidents, there will be swift response to manage the situations.
“For some of the boats in this axis, they don’t have the standard required pumping machine, which is the first and most important tool that is required in managing situations of barges taken in waters. The association has decried the huge influx of unlicensed and unidentified operators and this has made it difficult to manage the situation. For all the accidents recorded so far, none of them are members of BOAN,” he said.
As part of measures to address the problem, the BOAN President said all barging operations will be shut down for two days on a yet to be scheduled date to enable the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) licensed surveyors’ carryout an emergency assessment of every barge that is operating within the Lagos pilotage district noting that any barge that does not pass the assessment test will not be allowed to operate.
“In the course of these two day shut down, all engineers manning the crafts will all go through some rigorous training and retraining to ensure that new standard of safety are instilled in them as a first step and measures will be put in place to ensure that this is done continuously and for every new crew that is coming into the Lagos waterways must pass through the same system,” he said.
Kelikume said the association has also notified and made recommendations to concerned agencies that every barge operator operating within the pilotage district must be a member of BOAN noting that a few operators operating in isolation of the larger body present danger to the entire industry.
Also speaking, an executive member of the association, Wilson Ugbo alleged that multinationals, who came in as shipping companies are now taking over the job meant for indigenous operators.
Ugbo solicited the support of NPA and other regulatory agencies to checkmate the activities of the shipping companies.
“We need the government to support BOAN because we are doing everything within the confines of the law to operate legitimately. But we cannot survive if the government does not support us. They need to checkmate those who are setting up these companies and taking over the jobs of indigenous companies. If they remove the veil, they will see that some big shipping companies are beginning to come in as barge operators,” he said.