…Advises Nigerian Shippers Council, NIMASA to act fast on reclassification
By Adegboyega Oni
Nigerian freight forwarder, Dr. Eugene Nweke says he foresees possible submerging of container barges on Lagos and other port creeks because many of the barges presently in operations are not structurally and technologically fit to sail.
To avoid this and save billions of investments of Nigerian importers, Dr. Eugene Nweke, a former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), has advised the Nigerian Shippers‘ Council and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to begin reinspection and reclassification of barges in operation now.
Speaking with PortNews, Nweke noted that the nation’s port industry has had enough challenges which, for long, have defiled logical solutions and called on the industry regulators to act fast to save the industry of any imminent safety danger which the ricketty barges and their owners have posed.
“Here again, while the ailing challenges confronting our ports and access roads to them seem to have defiled administrative solutions, it has however opened a fiesta of opportunity for barge operators in container operations (transfer) without recourse to safety and security standards and cost implications. Today, Nigeria‘s port creek has become a beehive if not a haven for ricketty and non-seaworthy barges operations. Hence, the need for proper barge reinspection and reclassification, and firm regulation by concerned authorities cannot be overemphasized.
“What is prevalent in the sector presently is nothing but an all-comers affair like in the case of any other sector including the freight forwarding sector devoid of proper regulation. Craft deployed for such critical operations is too old and rickety.
“Failingly, sooner than later, cases of barge submerge and loss of investment may become a new order capable of posing an operational challenge in the industry. The Nigerian Shippers‘ Council must not only collaborate with the NIMASA to request and carry out a reinspection and reclassification exercise on all barges plying our port creeks but ensure the effectiveness/readiness of its rescue operations/apparatus in the face of distress, ” said Nweke.
He maintained that many barge operators who ventured into the business for profitization and monopoly sake lack expertise and hide the service component of their freight billings.
Nweke charged the Nigerian Shippers‘ Council to determine and ensure that competitive element of their operations and services are incorporated in their freight components and must set standard operating procedures for barge operation in the industry.
“Blanket freight charges as obtained in the barge operations is a mere rip off. There is an urgent need for the Nigerian Shippers‘ Council to reposition and properly regulate the barge operations as a deserving sector of the maritime industry.
“Unfortunately, some port operators seem to have signed an MoU purely for profitisation sake, not for safety and security sake. Port terminal operators have never taken any meaningful step to ensure the sea and operational worthiness of the crafts when engaging the barge operators,” the former NAGAFF President counselled.