Worried by the increasing cases of accidents on waterways, the National Inland Waterways Authority yesterday brainstormed with key stakeholders on how best to stem boat mishaps.
NIWA, through an initiative by Environplus+ Associates, an emergency planning and disaster management company, has made it imperative for all boat and ship operators to make available life jackets to all passengers on board after elaborate discussions with stakeholders from across the country.
Addressing participants at a stakeholders meeting held in Calabar, Cross River State for the formation of National Waterways Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit, the Area Manager of NIWA, Rufus Oladimeji, said the responsibilities vested on the agency will not be complete without taking deliberate steps to reduce accidents.
The stakeholders included fishermen, boat operators, ship operators, marine transporters, maritime workers, divers and security personnel from the police, navy and Directorate of State Security.
Oladimeji regretted that a lot of lives had been lost in recent times, adding that the new policy of no life jacket, no travel, would be implemented rigorously by security agencies in order to reduce deaths from mishaps.
He said, “A lot of lives have been wasted on water and as managers of the nation’s waterways, our responsibility will not be complete if we do not reduce water accidents. We have gone round to sensitize stakeholders that are gathered here to monitor users of waterways.
“They must make sure they comply with safety guidelines such as compulsory use of life jackets for all passengers, irrespective of age. Henceforth, any defaulting boat or ship operator will be arrested. We have informed the marine police and navy personnel of this new policy.”
According to the Head of Project and Programmes, Environplus+ Associates, Mr. OlubankoleOmokivie, in 2013 alone, reported cases of death on waterways stood at 296 while there are other unreported cases that added to the casualty level.
Omokivie disclosed that a recent study also ranked Nigeria top in the category of 20 countries that has unsafe waterways.
He disclosed that plans had reached advanced state of introducing a gadget on every passenger boat that will be triggered at the NIWA headquarters whenever there was mishap, adding that the trigger will send alert to stakeholders in the coverage area to immediately attend to the distressed boat.
“Every boat that carries passengers must have this gadget that will trigger NIWA headquarters and in turn stakeholders in the area of coverage will get an alert call. What is means is that if there is an emergency, the nearest point to the distress boat will be contacted.
“The issue of boat mishap has been on the rise and if we do not do something about it more Nigerians will die. 22 out of our 36 states and Abuja have full-fledged water transport system. It therefore means we need a system to respond to emergencies,” he said.
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