Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) has kicked against the ban on night sailing on inland waterways, describing the ban as unnecessary because barges are pulled by tugboats which have proper lighting systems.
The President of BOAN, Hon. Olubunmi Olumekun made this call during an exclusive chat with The News Diet, even as he encouraged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to review the decision.
His words: “Unlike other ferry services, barges utilize tugboats that have proper lighting systems for night operations. Asking barge operators not to work at night gives an impression to the global maritime community that Nigeria isn’t safe for such operations.”
“The issue is that vessels will keep coming into Nigerian waters and the cargoes will continue accumulating because the number of barge operations will be reduced. With night operations for barges is stopped, most of the barging activities at night must wait until it’s dawn. Nevertheless, the vessels at the seaside will not wait for the barges. Thus, this will create an additional problem in the evacuation of empty containers from Nigerian ports.”
He, however, encouraged the maritime regulators to explore approaches to make night sailing safer for barge operations and other crafts plying the inland waterways.
When contacted, the General Manager, Lagos Area Office, NIWA, Engr. Sarat Braimah reiterated that the ban on night sailing on the inland waterways is binding on barge operations.
She, however, admonished the barge operators group to make a special application to NIWA to exempt their barges from the ban with their reasons.
“The regulation is something that could be reviewed, but BOAN would have to bring a special application for their appeal because the ban was introduced for safety,” Braimah told The News Diet.
Olumekun, as part of efforts to reduce the cost of acquiring barges, encouraged the federal government to partner BOAN and the builders of barges with special fiscal or policy interventions.
“85 percent of the barges used by members of BOAN are built in Nigeria. However, there is a need for government to make an intervention to make the cost cheaper. There could be structured loans to the companies responsible for building barges and this could be achieved with partnership of BOAN. This way, the cost of production could be subsidized or major equipments, such as sophisticated welding machines could be subsidized by the government,” he said.