Many operators using unsafe barges at seaports — NPA
To introduce new SOP
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has said that many barges being used by operators along the nations waterways are not safe. This is even as the agency vowed to clamp down on unsafe barges in the coming weeks through the implementation of a new Standard Operating Procedure.
Addressing maritime journalists in Lagos during a media parley, the NPA Managing Director explained that a barge once operated in the dead of the night and almost caused a tanker to explode after hitting the fully loaded tanker by the side.
According to Mohammed Bello-Koko, “On our waters, we have all sports and sizes of barges that are not safe. The same way we have created a Minimum Safety Standard for trucks, we have also created for barges.
“Most of the barges on our waterways do not have communication system. Many of them are not branded, so when one barge commits an offence, you cannot single it out for sanctions because they are all brownish in colour. No difference.
“Most of the pilots that drive thos
“The barge operators have been operated on free ticket for long, that has to stop. They need to start paying to operate on our waterways. We are going to give the barge operators concessi0on to ensure that the government generates revenue from their operations.
“Sometimes, you will hear vessels hroning on our waterways. Thye vessels are horning because they probably want a barge to get off their way. We have had situations where ships n anchor in the middle of the channel because of a barge. That has to stop.
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“Going forward, we are going to be very firm with the barge operators. If we need to be brutal, we will. I am telling you this because you are likely to hear complaints from them in the coming weeks. We will not allow unsafe barges to operate.
“Some weeks ago, a barge sneaked out at night to operate and ended up bruising a vessel that was offloading liquid cargo. Imagine if that vessel had gone aflame? If you go to Kirikiri, you will see the barges double banking. In some places, they triple bank.”
On plans to revive the Koko, Sapele and Burutu ports, the NPA MD due to an NNPC pipeline that is buried about 7.5metres in Koko Port channel, the port channel cannot be dredged beyond 7.5metres.
“Somebody asked what we are doing to revive Burutu, Koko and Sapele ports. For Koko Port, there is an investor that has indicated interest to use the port for export purposes. The investor wants to be expecting minerals through the Koko Port.
“There is a lease there. It’s a short term lease but the investor wants a long term lease. It is when we finish the marking and surveying of tbe channel that we will conclude discussion with the investor.
“The channel has an NNPC pipeline that is buried about 7.5metres, so we cannot dredge beyond that point. Discussions has started with NNPC to see if that pipeline can be buried deeper.
If the pipeline is buried deeper to maybe 10 or 14metres, then we will be able to dredge the Koko Port channel to 14metres.
“Koko Port had one of the longest channels and that makes it extremely expensive to dredge.
“For Sapele port, we have been having meetings with the Nigerian Navy to see what we can do with the port. We are collaborating with the Navy to see what part of the port can be operational without jeopardizing security. You know that the Sapele port had practically.been turned into a Naval base, so we cannot just bring in civilians there when the whole place is filled with military personnel.
“We are accessing the Infrastructires at Koko and Burutu ports. We will be rehabilitating them very soon, especially Koko Port. The quays are collapsing and there is no electricity there. These are one of the things we will be doing this year.”