President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMN), Capt. Tajudeen Alao, has called on the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and other regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibility of keeping the waterways safe to collaborate and step up national safety awareness campaign as well as enforcement of regulations to stem the frequent boat mishaps on the nation’s inland waterways.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS, in Lagos on Monday, Alao lamented the incessant mishaps recorded on the nation’s waterways in recent times stressing the need for regular training and retraining of boat operators.
He said the leadership of the boat operators association should be held responsible for most of the mishaps as they are the ones allowing the operators to work beyond the prescribed deadline of 6pm and with many lacking passenger manifests.
He said, “The incessant boat mishap is of great concern to the association of master mariners because lives of Nigerians are involved and it is not just happening in Lagos but all over Nigeria. There should be a collaborative effort on safety and awareness campaigns all over the country both national and local among the agencies including the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Lagos State Waterways Authority and the Marine police.
“There should also be training and retraining of operators in terms of over loading, speeding and enforcing compliance to regulations otherwise, it will be a free for all affairs where people do what they like. The union should be held responsible for these mishaps because at the loading bay, the unions are the ones protecting the boat operators to do what they like. There are so many things they were doing in the past that they are not doing now that is why we have too many mishaps. Laxity has come to play.
“We have NIWA, NIMASA to enforce regulation, but it is not so practicable for NIWA to be on patrol 24 hours. People go on the water from here to Ikorodu and Epe even by 10pm. So it is the marine police who would be there to checkmate all that. The union also has a major role to play because they are the ones allowing their men to go outside the stated time because of revenue.”
Alao also stressed the need for NIWA to ensure constant clearing of the waterways including the removal of floating logs and other forms of pollution, which he noted contributes to mishaps on the waterways.
Last month, no fewer than three boat accidents were recorded. On Friday, July 3, a 20-seater passenger boat named ‘Lalek Marine’ operated out of Ebute Ero Jetty around 8pm and capsized on its way to Ikorodu after running into an object with seven persons dead.
Within the same period, an overcrowded boat reportedly capsized in Central Benue State with dozens of deaths recorded. The latest incidents occurred last week where up to 10 people were said to have died when their boat capsized under a barge around the Kirikiri area of Lagos State.