Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) is set to begin a two-day inspection for more safety measures in the waterways following the barge accidents that destroyed goods worth about N500million.
The association said the barge accident occurred on Saturday, March 7 this year, involving two containers conveying expensive LED television sets, which fell off around Maza-Maza water channel.
During an emergency press briefing in Apapa to address the accidents on the waterways within Lagos, the President of BOAN, Mr. Edeme Kelikume, noted that the suspension of activities would begin this week after meeting with regulators and stakeholders.
He added: “The two-day shutdown of barging services will enable the regulator, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) inspect all barges. Those which fail the test will be pushed out of the system.”
While emphasising that the two days shutdown would enable barge operators re-train their captains and officials on safety and best practices, the president said BOAN would write to terminals and shipping companies not to engage barges, which fail the test during this period.
Listing the high rate of barge accidents, Kelikume attributed the causes to substandard jetties, improper loading by operators, and lack of balance on the barges.
He added: “From our primary investigations, these accidents can be attributed to some factors we have identified but not exclusively those factors. One of those factors is called substandard jetties.”
He hinted that the very unprofessional act of leaving barges unattended by tugboats has also left some of these barges unattended.
For Kelikume, it is expected and it is a standard that every barge must have a tugboat attached to it to contain incidents like these.
He also lamented that some boats in this axis “don’t have the standard required pumping machines, which is the first and the most important tool required in managing situations of barges taking in water.”
Meanwhile, he outlined that BOAN had been lamenting for a while about the huge influx of unlicensed and unidentified barges, thus, has been a bit difficult to manage the situations.
Kelikume, therefore, called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIMASA, and the National Inland Waterways Authority to address the overlapping functions in regulating jetties and barge operations.
Also speaking at the meeting, a displeased member of BOAN, Wilson Ugbo, called the media’s attention to the influx of unlicensed and unregulated barges in the country.
Ugbo, who is with Alliance Integrated Services, acknowledged that indeed accidents happen everywhere all over the world, even in climes that practised the best and safest procedure.
“We have fought this and still fighting. We have a lot of illegal operators in this industry. And we are beginning to see the I flux of multinationals coming to take business meant of the indigenous companies. They are breaking the association,” he decried.
He, therefore, demanded, “We need government to fully support BOAN and all the regulatory agencies. We need government to come and we are going to set up a stakeholders meeting to structure it and look at the best way to do it.”
He compared that barges are working in Japan, Sweden, Denmark and every country blessed with waterfront, stressing that if Nigeria could replicate the same successes they have there, then she would grow her GDP.