By Okezie Nnadi
Barge operation is fast becoming the beautiful bride in the movement of cargoes to and from the ports in Nigeria, especially the Lagos ports, using the Lagos pilotage district as operators attempt to fill the void created by lack of multimodal transportation system in the planning of our ports.
Using barge as an alternative to moving cargo through the gridlock ridden port access roads and a none existent rail system to its final destinations, is cheaper, quicker and safer.
Yet, this mode of transportation is faced with myriad of constraints clogging the watery wheels of its operation.
Speaking at the just concluded Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), Roundtable Maritime industry 2021 Q1 review, a seasoned intermodal logistics service provider, Managing Director, Nurwags Integrated Services Ltd., a member of Barge operators association of Nigeria, Alh Mohammed Nura Wagani who vehemently decried the lack of regulations in the Maritime industry as a bane of barge operation.
According to Wagani ” our water channels are impeded with lots of wrecks, the government should come to our aid by getting those agencies whose business it is to remove these wreckages from our water way, especially the Lagos pilotage district. The government has to also help us with the dredging of the channels. to allow boats and barges unhindered movement on the water,” he demanded.
Still reeling out a number of draw backs bedeviling barge operation in Nigeria, Wagani says access to funds from reputable banks has become a serious hindrance. ” The Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), from NIMASA would have aided us to equip our operations to compete favorably with our foreign counterparts by acquiring sophisticated equipment, such as self propelled barge which does not need a tug boat to move it to destination has been stalled, in fact, we do not even understand what NIMASA is doing about that.”
Continuing, he says multiple taxation by the various government agencies, with overlapping regulatory functions over barge operations is also a pain in the neck and to worsen it all, different multiple charges by terminal operators.
Wagani decried the difficulty they encounter trying to access windows at the various terminals, this, he says is causing operators to accumulate demurrage. According to him, demurrages on tug boats is a challenge used to disengage barges, thereby causing accidents.
He called on the Federal government to help barge operators access single digit loans to be able to compete, as there are no Maritime banks yet to grant the kind of loan that help barge operators.
Wagani says a dedicated berthing spaces should be provided to ease operations.
“The training and retraining of captains of the barges to update the natural knowledge of operations is what we cannot shy away from,” he concluded.
Barge operations in Nigeria can be described as a child of circumstance becoming prominent between 2017 and 2018, due largely to the A papa traffic gridlock which hindered movement of of cargoes to and from the ports.
Over 300,000 TEUs have been moved from the ports to their final destinations since 2918, impacting tremendously on the growth of the Nigerian economy.