Barge operations: Containers falling into Lagos lagoon, NIWA raises alarm

• Blames substandard tugboat, barges

THE National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has bemoaned the use of substandard Tug boats and barges during cargo evacuation by barge operators from the Apapa port to Ikorodu and Epe, stating that many containers are falling into the Lagos lagoon due to this anomaly, thereby posing a grave danger for waterways users.

Addressing stakeholders in Lagos over the weekend during a stakeholders meeting, the Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Engr Sarat Braimah revealed that due to the Apapa traffic gridlock, the focus is gradually shifting to the movement of containers by barges in Lagos.

According to Sarat Braimah, “Due to the congestion at our ports which was caused by the Apapa traffic gridlock, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) called us for a meeting and informed us that they have given some people license to lift cargoes by barges using our inland waterways. The routes for cargo evacuation by barges are Apapa to Ikorodu and Apapa to Epe. We were happy with the NPA initiative because having all containers leave the port by road is crippling our port system.

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“Unfortunately, just two months after the commencement of cargo evacuation by barges at our seaports, we started having containers falling into the Lagoon, the same way containers used to fall off from the back of trucks on Ojuelegba bridge. However, this time around, the containers were not falling off from the back of trucks but were falling into the lagoon from atop the barges.

“From our investigation, we found out that the problem has to do with the quality of tug boats and barges being used in cargo evacuation at our seaports. We want to appeal to investors interested in moving cargoes by barges to do it right. We would not want to transfer the problem we are having on our roads to our waterways.

“I have told the barge operators to look for funds to ensure they are doing the business properly. I have told them that henceforth, the survey and registration of their barges must strictly come from the NIWA Lagos office. We will only give the permit to any barge that we have certified that is fit and capable of doing the cargo evacuation business on our waters.

“For example, the first mishap that occurred was because the Tug boat had only one engine and was carrying twelve containers from the Ikorodu terminal to Apapa. The containers were being taken to APM Terminal at Apapa port, and all of a sudden, right in the middle of the Lagos lagoon, the only engine of the Tug boat developed a fault at Elegbata. With a faulty engine, the Tug boat could no longer manoeuvre the barge, and the heavy tides of the Lagos Lagoon threw some of the containers off balance on the barge, and they fell into the lagoon. This happened about two weeks ago.

“The second mishap occurred just last week when a barge operator loaded about twelve containers from Apapa port, and the containers fell off because they were double stacked, that is each container had another one on top of it on the barge.

“Yes, barge operators always tell us that they used to study tidal waves before embarking on their journey, but we have found out that this tidal wave study is not always accurate, due to changes in nature which could occur unannounced. So we have advised barge operators to always play safe because nature cannot always be predicted. If the barge operator did not double-stack containers, some of the containers that fell into the lagoon wouldn’t have fallen.

“We cannot continue to have containers fall into our waterways. God forbid if a boat carrying passengers was approaching, what could have happened? So we have directed that no barge operator should double-stack containers on our waterways henceforth.”

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