Nigeria, China Share Strategies on Inland Waterways Development

Esther Oluku

In line with the vision of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy to upscale inland waterways transportation, leading Maritime agencies and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China met yesterday to share strategies on how to enhance Nigeria’s inland waterways sector.

They convened at the Maritime Business Roundtable Breakfast Meeting (MBRBM) organised by Zoe Maritime Resources, themed, “Security and New Technologies in Inland Waterways Transportation,” in Lagos.

Giving her remarks, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, Ms. Yan Yuquing, stated that new technologies and compliance to international best practices lies at the crux of building efficient waterways transportation system.

Yuquing added that through optimisation of its waterways infrastructure and technological adaptation, China has been able to convert the position of the most efficient waterways economy in the world.

She said: “In terms of inland waterway freight volume, China has ranked first in the world for many consecutive years. The Changjiang River has consistently been the world’s busiest inland waterway transportation route, known for its high volume of traffic. 

“In 2022, China’s inland waterway transportation completed a freight volume of more than 4.4 billion tons and goods turnover of 1.9 trillion ton-kilometers, highlighting the significant support for the regional economic development and social progress.”

She explained, “China has constructed 16 Automated Container Terminals, with more than 10 currently under construction, both ranking first in the world. At present, the mileage covered by the national ENC (Electronic Navigational Charts) is more than 5700 kilometers.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the plenary, representative of the Managing Director, Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Assistant Manager, Port and Environment, Ms. Aisha Eri, noted that infrastructural deficits lead the list of challenges stalling inland Waterways transportation in Nigeria.

She added that a lack of adherence to safety education as facilitated the NIWA also pose a problem resulting in possible accident risks.

Eri however assured stakeholders present that with the new administration of Nigeria’s government focus on inland waterways, the next one year would witness significant improvements in the sector.

On her part, Product Development Manager, Niger Benue Transport Company (NBTC), Mr. Uche Chibu, stated the insecurity on Nigeria  waterways have worsened since the 60s as trade along waterways now experience fiercer security threats. According to her, NBTC now has to pay more money to hire security vessels to escort their ships during voyages.

“During the 60s, people were very friendly. We really didn’t have security issues as we do now. Our vessels go in convoy from our jetty in Warri to Cameroon and we pass through river Niger and Venue peacefully. That journey takes almost a month and any jetty or community we berth at seemed friendly. The challenges we have is in terms of security. Although insecurity has gone down, we still have pockets of insecurity around. There are some areas you cannot go without security, one in gunboat in front and one behind and this has affected, “he said

Chibu pointed that although the security challenges have decreased in recent times, there is an urgent need to address the “pockets of security challenges” which remains.

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