…as fiscal, infrastructure and policy issues bedevil waterways transport
Amid the nation’s plan to boost socio-economic development via inland waterways transport, maritime experts have identified core challenges in the sector to include; policy issues, substandard barges and boats, inadequate equipment at jetties, high costs of operations, among others.
These problems as well as some possible solutions were explored at the maiden edition of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Maritime Mode Workshop which held in Lagos, yesterday.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Climate Change and Ecology, Senator Lawali Hassan Anka, pointed out that inland waterways transport has a relatively low air and noise emissions per tonne, when compared to other transport modes.
At the event themed; “Optimization of Inland Waterways Transport in Nigeria,” Anka stressed that the development of waterways can have adverse environmental impacts on water quality, biodiversity, landscape and the recreational value of water bodies.
“From an environmental point of view, inland navigation can contribute to making transport more sustainable, particularly where it substitutes for road transport.I want to draw our attention to the importance of engendering resistance to waterway investments to improve water quality or biodiversity and create valuable habitats.”
“Waterborne traffic remains an environmentally preferable mode compared to road or rail haulage. Expansion and development of waterways can have significant environmental impacts, mitigate or compensate for damage. It is equally important to recognise that Dredging sometimes has severe impacts, especially when sediments are contaminated with industrial discharges,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hon. Emmanuel Jime highlighted major problems limiting the nation’s waterway transport sector to include faulty barges and boats, proliferation of jetties, inadequate handling equipment, high cost of operations, among others.
Jime asserted that the culmination of these challenges denied the nation optimum socio-economic benefits of a viable inland waterway transport, even as he expressed worry that the industry hasn’t come to terms with the role of NSC as port economic regulator.
He opined that with adequate synergy between the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Shippers’ Council, issues affecting costs and standards will be streamlined.
“NSC is involved in economic regulation of the sector but the challenge is that the industry hasn’t really come to terms with this reality that there’s indeed an agency responsible for regulating commercial activities. There is no way an operator could regulate or discuss issues around charges and costs without having an input from NSC. We have been engaging the barge operators and they are aware of the Council’s role in their operations in terms of standardization and costs. NSC shouldn’t be engaging the barge operators alone, we should be working closely with NIWA which is the agency with the direct mandate to regulate inland waterways,” the NSC boss said.
He reiterated that the agencies of government under the Ministry of Transportation have resolved to engage frequently to resolve issues and plan holistically for the transport development in the country.
Also speaking, the immediate-past President of CILT Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Jibril described the National Transport Policy as a crucial document that could transform the nation’s inland waterway sector and the entire transport system, but lamented that it hasn’t been assented.
Jibril expressed worry that the document which was developed more than five years ago may have become obsolete and in need of adjustments to ensure the policy comes out as a relevant updated document.
“Are the components of that National Transport Policy draft not stale by now? I understand that at some point it had to go to the Ministry of Works for some input and I agree on this. However, I am also aware that the document was left at the Ministry of Works for so long and the Transport Ministry couldn’t do anything about it because it was sent there by the presidency. The issue is that the process has taken so long and we need to look at the document to ensure it is still relevant to the nation’s transport needs today,” Jibril said.
He also expressed concern on the available of skilled personnel for the various aspects of inland waterways operations, adding that officials responsible for training and certification must do more to improve the manpower in the sector.
Jibril called for an industry audit of the infrastructure such as boat building yards, jetties, watercrafts and skillsets to know where there are shortcomings and the efforts required to attain global best standards.
In her response, the Chairperson of Zoe Maritime Resources and Covener of the annual Lagos International Maritime Week, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore pointed out that an updated version of the National Transport Policy was reworked and concluded in 2021.
“I want to put out additional information concerning the National Transport Policy. I am part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the formulation of National Transport Policy for Nigeria. We worked on the policy and submitted it last year (2021). The document is currently with the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and it’s a recent one. It’s not the same one that was concluded 5 years ago because we submitted it last year. As soon as FEC approves it, it will be a working document for Nigeria,” she said.
Earlier, the Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu had identified overcrowded boats, substandard and expired life-jackets as well as inland waterways travel by night and early hours as responsible for most of the boat mishaps in the nation.
Moghalu also expressed dissatisfaction at the speedy reports of unverified casualties from boat accidents noting that one life was lost in the recent Niger State boat mishap contrary to earlier media reports that 50 persons died.
The NIWA boss also revealed that the agency has begun installation of cameras on shorelines to monitor inland waterways activities even as it intends to have a Command Control centre for surveillance.
Moghalu maintained that inland waterways transport remains the cheapest and safest transport mode for carriage of cargoes and expressed optimism that the challenges bedeviling the sector could be surmounted.
Worried by the territorial conflicts between NIWA and tahw Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), the President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke advised NIWA and LASWA to shelve their differences and focus on addressing operational issues in the sector.
Ezeoke also encouraged the inland waterway regulators to deepen efforts to curb night travel on waterways as most accidents occur at night.
In his welcome remarks, the Chairman of the occasion and Chairman of the House Committee on Waterways, Hon. Patrick Asadu observed that the nation has gotten to a point where it could no longer neglect or ignore the potential of inland waterways transportation.
Asadu, who was represented by Hon. Babatunde Hunpe, described inland waterways transport as a major catalyst for social and economic integration, commerce, agriculture, human capacity development and lower emissions.
“Nigeria’s inland waterways have the capacity to transform our economy. employ youth, revive local industries, promote trade and reduce the burden on the roads nationwide. However, this will require deliberate efforts by way of policies, investments and standardized operations in tandem with global best practices,” he said.
While welcoming guests to the workshop, the President of CILT Nigeria, Barr. (Mrs.) Mfon Usoro compared inland waterways to the road sector, even as she noted that more regulations have been meted out to attain standard roads and roadworthiness for vehicles.
“If we can visualize the inland waterways as motorways of the seas, most of our problems would be solved. We can visualize the road transport sector and the motorways, vehicles and all the infrastructure that have been established to make motorways safe, motorable and attractive. We can transpose that to the waterways and this simply means that we must provide all the infrastructure and policies to make waterways attractive and commercially viable so that merchants will choose to use the waterways,” she said.
Usoro opined that legislations may not be able to compel consignees and passengers to patronize the waterways instead of roads, but assured that an attractive system that guarantees safety will lead to more investments and patronage for the sector.
Some maritime bigwigs who graced the occasion and provided quality submissions, include; the Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Serve and Lelook Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa; the Chairman, Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin; Pioneer Vice Chancellor of the Tai Solarin University of Education, Prof. Kayode Oyesiku; Director, Centre for Multi-Modal Transport Studies, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Iyiola Oni; President of WIMA-Nigeria, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy; Chairman of YoungShip Nigeria, Mr. Popoola-Taiwo Shehu; among others.
The event was aptly organized by the Maritime Mode of CILT Nigeria chaired by Mr. Usman Shuaibu, while the Chairperson of the Programme Planning Committee was Mrs. Margaret Ogbonnah.