By Steve Agbota [email protected]
The Federal Government through the the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is currently working with barge operators for comprehensive insurance cover for both barges and cargoes on Nigeria’s water ways.
The move comes as many believe it will further boost investor’ confidence on the nation’s water transportation ecosystem as part of what needs to be fully insured to give protection to importers and exporters.
However, Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Dr. George Moghalu, said there is need for Nigeria as a country to have a workable quality and comprehensive insurance cover for cargoes and barge movements along the nation’s inland waterways.
Speaking at a media interactive session with journalists recently in Lagos, Moghalu hinted that NIWA under his watch in partnership with barge operators would ensure the country develop a comprehensive insurance cover for both barges and cargoes on Nigeria’s waterways to boost the confidence of stakeholders to embrace the sector as an alternative mode of transporting their goods.
On night sailing, he said that the Authority will not hesitate to arrest those patronising boat operators found doing business at night hours through its special task force across the country.
He urged citizens to desist from patronising unregistered boat operators at odds-hours along waterways.
He said “90 to 95 per cent of accidents happen in the night or early in the morning, and these vessels do not have night navigational aids so they should not be allowed to move at nights”.
Regrettably people will still move at nights. They will avoid the right jetties and at times, they do not even move from jetties, but at river banks to the water to expose our people to dangers.
“This should not happen in our jetties because they are monitored and there are rules that must be obeyed. You cannot onboard any vessel from any of our jetties without being fully kitted, and without wearing a life jacket and most people do not know that life jackets expire, but these people do not take caution and still go ahead to expose Nigerians to avoidable dangers when they are not properly kitted,” he said.
However, as the country continues to seek ways to utilise its 10,000km stretch of inland waterways, the NIWA boss acknowledged the need to provide the needed framework that would give both stakeholders insurance cover for inland transport as an alternative modal means of transport.
“Out of the 10,000km stretch of the nation’s inland waterways, we should be able to operate close to 3600km. Therefore there is a need for vessels to be fully insured to give protection to importers and exporters in the sector. So, improved quality insurance cover for vessels is a prime project the Authority is fully committed to in its bids to decongesting the nation’s ports and reducing pressure on Nigerian roads.
“We are looking at having quality insurance to cover both the barges and the cargoes. This was among the issues raised by some importers, because they do not want a situation where they would gamble with their goods to bring their goods from China and Europe only to lose same on the Nigerian waterways,” he added.
According to him, because Nigerian roads are not designed to carry heavy equipment, developing inland waterways becomes imperative to aid the nation’s road infrastructure, which does last the test of time.
“Our roads are not designed to carry what they are carrying and there is no way our infrastructure will last. So anything we can do to reduce the pressure on our roads, we are going to support it. In a civilised society, cargoes are transported by water or rail. We will continue to pursue our targets till we fully achieve it,” he said.
Commenting on the boat mishaps that seem to be a re-occurrence event in the country, the NIWA MD maintained it would continue to deploy radio jingles, constant training and distribution of life jackets to all 26 zonal offices of the Authority.
He stressed that most of the vessels involved in mishaps do not have night navigational aids, even as the authority has installed several navigational aids along the country’s waterways.
He said the Authority would strengthen its partnership with sister agencies to bolster and improve security on the nation’s inland waterways, assuring that NIWA would explore all the security mechanism initiatives aimed at achieving a safe waterway to the fullest.
The NIWA boss said the Authority had constituted a waterways task force to arrest any boat operator operating beyond the stipulated time, adding that the task force comprises of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), barge operators, maritime workers union of Nigeria and the Marine Police.
“We are arresting people, we have tried defaulters and some of them have been convicted and we are still doing this. We even go as far as impounding vessels that are not fit to be on our waterways. We will keep doing this because every life is important to us and we do not want this to continue,” he said.