Barge Operators Raise Concerns Over Shallow Channels, Lack of Dredging Affecting Operations

…Give Reasons Why they don’t use International Barges

By DAPO OLAWUNI

The Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) have raised concerns of shallow water drafts, as well as lack of dredging of the waterways channels as challenges confronting their operations in Nigeria.

The association also revealed that it has donated two speed boats to the marine police department of the Nigerian Police Force, so as to ensure they patrol and secure their boats on the waterways.

At a joint press briefing held in Lagos on Tuesday in conjunction with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Vice President of BOAN, Mr Nura Wagani stated that most of the barges being used by operators were meant for Nigerian waterways only, and not for international seagoing.

According to him, “We have low channels within the creeks, and we cannot bring big barges to make use of them within our inland waterways because of so many factors.

“We are facing the challenge of dredging due to the low channels, some of the channel does not have the required depth for bigger barges, this is why we use the Creek barges and not the seagoing barges”

“Most of these barges we use are manufactured here locally, we have to prioritise our own made in Nigeria products, our barges are good, they are not substandard, we have moved tonns of cargoes from vessel to barge directly” he said

Wagani refuted claims that barge operators in Nigeria are usually being refused by international vessels calling at the port to berth alongside and receive cargoes directly.

According to him, BOAN members have been carrying out a lot of ship to barge direct operations, “This happens at ENL Terminal, 70,000 tons direct transfer from vessel to barge, we have done it at Josepdam terminal, Eko Support Terminal and so on, and all these are done from foreign vessels”

“We have been in business since 2018 when barge operations came to stay, we have decongested the port, last year we did 1million tonnes, this year, we have done almost 800tonnes as rough estimate”

“Telling us our barges are substandard is not true” he stated.

Also speaking at the conference, a member of BOAN/MWUN steering Committee, Asiwaju Haruna Omolajomo said that all barges being used by BOAN members are meant for Nigerian waters only.

“All our barges are for Nigerian waterways, they are not international ones, 100percent of the barges we use are for Nigerian waters only” he said

Meanwhile, the BOAN has said that it has formed an “Alliance” with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and that it has issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which would henceforth guide barge operations on Nigerian waterways.

Vice Chairman of the 10-man Steering Committee who developed the SOP, Comrade Tonye Harry stated that the SOP is to cover issues of Safety, maintenance, training, documentation and certification, chandlering, medical, communications, levies and dues, welfare, guide to conduct, fueling,
berthing speed, insurance, barge management system app (BMS) among others.

Comrade Harry who is a Deputy President General of MWUN, represented the Chairman of the Steering Committee, Alhaji Ahmed Muhammed.

He said “The SOP will serve as guide to any and every person or organization involved in Barging operation within Nigerian Territorial waters.

“Consequent to the above, it is my duty and privilege to announce that the implementation of the above Standard Operating Procedure will kick start from Monday 15th November 2021 and to this end the Steering Committee, Management Unit will be inaugurated and presented with the terms of reference to implement standard operating procedure on barge operators in Nigeria ”

Comrade Harry said the SOP was culminated by maritime experts, taking into cognisance all the SOP of the various regulatory agencies at the port.

He said the barging SOP does not conflict with any of the existing one by the agencies

Another member of the committee, Hajia Bola Muse said that the BOAN/MWUN alliance team has set up an enforcement and monitoring team to ensure implementation of the SOP.

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