Barge operations: Shippers’ Council calls for protection of indigenous operators

Mr Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), on Friday said there was need to protect the capacity of indigenous barge operators in the country.

Bello said this during a meeting of the council with executives and members of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) in Lagos.

He said that to protect 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.

He 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.

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

“It is a good thing and with many good things comes with pains. When Nigeria Customs Service suspended the barge operations, I knew we were in trouble, we cannot afford not to operate the barge because 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, tariff on goods, minimum standards and others.

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

The NSC boss 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 big problem, nobody will make profit and so the need to structure the system to have standard.

“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,” he said.

The President of BOAN, Mr Edeme Kelikume, said that for the industry to succeed, there was 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 taxation 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 flash points on the waterways, ensuring that all the captains are exposed to more training, working with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority to rectify the carbon usage on the waterways.

“The Nigerian Ports Authority should  also bring all operators together so as to eliminate quack that infiltrate the system,” he said.(NAN)