The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has decried the use of substandard tugboats and barges during cargo evacuation by barge operators from the Apapa port to Ikorodu and Epe on the waterways in Lagos.
NIWA said as a result of the development, many containers are falling into the Lagos lagoon, thereby posing grave danger for waterways users.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting in Lagos over the weekend, the Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Sarat Braimah pointed that due to the Apapa traffic gridlock, focus is gradually shifting to movement of containers by barges in Lagos.
She said, “As a result of 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.
“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.”
She said NIWA found out that the problem has to do with the quality of tugboats and barges being used in cargo evacuation at the nation’s seaports.
Braimah therefore appealed 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 permit to any barge that we have satisfied that is fit and capable of doing the cargo evacuation business on our waters.
“For example, the first mishap that occurred was because the tugboat had only one engine and was carrying twelve containers from the Ikorodu terminal to Apapa and all of a sudden, right in the middle of the Lagos lagoon, the only engine of the tugboat developed fault at Elegbata. With a faulty engine, the tugboat could no longer maneuver 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,” she added.