Following the ghastly barge incidents over the weekend transporting cargo estimated to be worth more than N500 million, barge activities in Lagos will be suspended for two days.
In Saturday’s unpleasant barge accident, containers were dropped along the Mazamaza water channel and some containers were claimed to be costly LED television sets.
Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) announced this at a press conference in Apapa, Lagos, yesterday.
According to the community, a two-day shutdown of barge services would allow the regulator, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to carry out inspections of all barges, and those who fail the test will be forced out of the system.
The President of BOAN, Mr. Edeme Kelikume, noted that the cessation of operations will take effect this week after a critical meeting with regulators and stakeholders.
However, he emphasized that the cessation of operations would make it possible for barge operators to retrain their captains and officials on protection and best practice in industry.
“BOAN will write to terminals and shipping companies not to engage barges that have failed the test during this time,” Edeme said.
The party also deplored the fact that the high incidence of barge incidents was due to the absence of standard jetties, the unsafe loading by operators and the lack of equilibrium on barges.
Despite repeated barge incidents in recent years, BOAN argued that none of its representatives had been involved in the accidents, and the party thus recommended that every barge operator in the pilotage district should be a member of BOAN.
Edeme said that over 1 million TEUs and more than 10,000 trucks have been transported by barges over the last three years, adding that top companies such as Danone Sugar, BUA, among others, might have shut down without barking in the midst of volatile port access roads.
The President of BOAN called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIMASA and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to discuss conflicting roles in the regulation of jetties and barges.
He also recommended that tugboats could be tied to barges in the pilotage region so that there will be a rapid response when incidents arise.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Wilson Ugbo, a member of BOAN, regretted the flood of unlicensed and unchecked barges into the service.
Ugbo observed that even in top maritime countries, where best practice is prioritized, incidents exist, but emphasized that no properly licensed barge operator would-be the target of multiple cases in Nigeria.