FG seeks to regulate seaport barge operations

The Federal Government through the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) is set to regulate barge operations at the ports, warning that the industry cannot be allowed to be an all-comers affair.

Speaking at the weekend during a meeting with the leadership of the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, said there was a need to protect the capacity of indigenous barge operators in the country.

Bello said that to protect the indigenous capacity of barge operation, it was important to look at proper regulation, the Cabotage Act, and see how the barge operators would fit into the act.

The NSC Boss noted that the operation was a specialised one with a lot of technical and economic operations, hence the need to structure and regulate to ensure smooth flow.

According to Hassan Bello, “Barge operations have come to stay. It is helpful to the economy in the sense that we need to have a multimodal approach that will be used to evacuate cargoes from the port.

“It is a good thing and with many good things comes pain. When the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) suspended barge operations at the ports, I knew we were in trouble because we cannot afford not to operate the barge since its part of the architecture of the port.

“I am happy the barge operators are here today so that we can discuss the issue of security, safety, insurance, the tariff on goods, minimum standards and others.

“Barge operations cannot be an all-comers affair and so the need for regulation. There is a need to monitor entry and exit, to know when someone is not doing what they are supposed to do.”

The NSC boss also said that what was needed was good understanding, control and regulation, stressing the need for regulation to ensure sanity among barge operators.

“If you allow anybody to just come and operate, there will be a big problem at the ports. Nobody will make a profit and so the need to structure the system to have standard is imperative.

“It is important we introduce sanity, order and regulation and this will include technical regulation because some barges are not technically sound, and the meeting will aid in bringing down the cost and ease of doing business,” Bello said.

On his part, the BOAN President, Mr Edeme Kelikume, said that for the industry to succeed, there was a need for a good structure, urging for Shippers’ Council’s intervention.

He also urged the NSC to look into charges by terminal operators, saying that there are huge variance, pricing, insurance bond, multiple taxations in the area of cabotage.

On the recent barge accident, he noted that a few measures had been put in place to forestall future occurrence, including limiting double stacking of containers.

“We are engaging with the Navy to monitor the flashpoints on the waterways, and ensuring that all the captains are exposed to more training. We are also working with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to rectify the carbon usage on the waterways,” the BOAN President added.

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FG seeks to regulate seaport barge operations

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