By DAPO OLAWUNI
In order to ensure standardisation in barge operations in Nigeria, three agencies under the Federal Ministry of Transportation namely; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) have resolved to come up with a single Standard Operating Procedure for barge operators.
This decision was announced in Lagos last week at a meeting between the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) and the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki.
Saraki announced that barge operators would no longer have to visit the three agencies in order to perfect their registration and documentation, adding that the process is cumbersome.
According to her, a small committee has been set up among the three agencies to ensure that a single SOP is used for barging operations.
Saraki also berated lack of standardisation among barge operators, which according to her has made foreigners to start coming into the business.
“If you don’t want foreigners coming into that sector, you must ensure that you are professional, don’t cut corners, have the right vessel.
“Barges tilting and dropping off containers into the waters is not acceptable. Barging in Nigeria is now becoming a big business, the operators must be trained and obtain a certificate that is acceptable to the regulators” she stated
Speaking on the committee which would come up with the single SOP, Saraki said;
“We are putting a timeline on the committee so that it would not be like that of the fleet implementation Committee’
The small committee would come to Abuja for us to look at this harmonised SOP. Let NIWA, NPA and NIMASA all seat together to look at it.
“Sometimes the Act of these agencies overlap on who has jurisdiction and responsibility, especially between NIMASA and NIWA, especially on issues of safety, it is in NIMASA and NIWA Act, this is why we need to seat and agree that, even though the Acts allows them, we have to come up with an SOP that would ensure that there is only one portal or body that would attend to barge operators.
We don’t want to be an encumberance to trade” she stated
The minister assured that the Federal Government is ready to provide incentives for the barge operators, but only when they are organized and standardized.
Also speaking at the meeting, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh said the agency has been inundated with complaints of accidents occuring on the waterways and barges sinking.
Jamoh stated that NIMASA can no longer allow such situations to continue, and that this was why the agency was keen on registration of barges to ensure minimum standard of safety.
In terms of safety, he said that those who operate the barges lack training and the basic facilities for safety.
“We have had complaints brought to us due to accidents happening on the waterways, the MD NIWA can testify that we are working towards developing a Standard Operating Procedure, we reached certain level and we discovered that we have to involve the NPA and NIWA so that we can have a harmonised and standardized SOP for the barge operators
“We cannot allow you to operate without registration with NIMASA, what we are now coming up with as an SOP is for us to have standard in registration.
Having the barges register with NIWA, NPA and NIMASA is becoming cumbersome and expensive.
“NPA would take their responsibility, NIWA would take it’s responsibility and NIMASA takes its responsibility. The stakeholders would have to be there and be party to whatever we are agreeing upon before we now release it out.
“As far as NIMASA is concerned, it cannot take us more than this year, we have about five months left, we have already gone far in what we needed to do” he assured
Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu corroborated the NIMASA DG, saying that in terms of standardisation, there is a committee that has been put in place to make sure that there is standardize in the barging business.
According to him “If we do not put standard in place, importers would see it as a gamble putting their cargoes on your barges”
“There is need for insurance for importers that their cargoes would not be affected while using the barges, the barges should also be insured” he stated