Despite the regulatory challenges and operational hazards affecting barge operations in Lagos, barging has been responsible for moving over 3 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) from Lagos ports in the last three years.
The President of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Hon. Olubunmi Olumekun revealed this while addressing journalists at the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) headquarters in Lagos, yesterday.
However, the BOAN President lamented that foreigners, mostly Asians, have started aquiring major waterfronts, especially around Badagry area of Lagos for barge operations.
Olumekun observed that there is a dire need for a legislation to regulate barge operations to make barging a local content strictly for Nigerians.
“All our barges are locally made in Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt and a lot of companies are coming into barge construction. The industry must be protected to save over 5000 jobs in the industry.”
“National Assembly must also legislate that certain percentage of cargoes should be moved by water,” Olumekun said, even as he called on state governments to invest in water transportation.
He encouraged the Federal Government to commit 20 percent of its railway budget to the development of inland water transportation, particularly barge operations.
Opining that the Nigerian barging sector could be worth over $3 billion, he argued that with only 20 percent of funds expended on railway the Federal Government could fully harness barge operations in the nation.
“Barge operation can bring $3 billion investments added to the GDP. We have not tapped what we are supposed to get from the industry. Barging requires a lot of capital; we cannot do it alone. Government needs to come to our aid. We will appreciate it if government can dedicate 20% of the railway funding to water transportation,” he said.
Speaking on the proposed Regional Maritime Bank, he said it would be an advantage for barge operators even as he described a maritime bank as a welcome development for the industry which requires loans at single digit interest rates.
Also speaking at the conference, Prince Daniel Eze, the Public Relations Officer of BOAN noted that some terminal operators have begun to open up open barge operations department.
“We want a legislative act that forbids foreigners and terminal operators from doing barging,” he posited.