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Shippers Council moves to regulate barge operation to ensure safety, sanity

Determined to ensure the safety of goods on transit, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) has begun moves to regulate the operations of barge operators in Nigeria.

Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC, who disclosed this during a recent meeting with executives and members of the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) in Lagos, said Barge operations cannot be an all-comers affair, thus the need for regulation.

“There is need to monitor entry and exit into the business of barging, and to know when someone is not doing what they are supposed to do. It requires good understanding, control, and regulation in order to ensure the safety of goods on transit and to ensure sanity among operators,” he said.

He said that allowing anybody to operate barge will bring big problem because nobody will make profit, thus the need to structure the system to have standard.

While noting that there was also need to protect the capacity of indigenous barge operators in the country, Bello said that it was important to look at the Cabotage Act in order to see how barge operators would fit into the act in terms of protecting capacity of indigenous barge operators.

According to him, barge operation was a specialised business 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 a multimodal approach that will be used to evacuate cargoes from the port. It is important we introduce sanity, order, and regulation and this will include technical regulation because some barges are not technically sound, and this help in bringing down the cost and ease of doing business,” he said.

“We need to discuss the issue of security, safety, insurance, the tariff on goods, minimum standards and others.”

Edeme Kelikume, president of BOAN, said that for the industry to succeed, there was the need for a good structure, calling for Shippers’ Council’s intervention.

He also urged the NSC to look into charges by terminal operators, saying that there is huge variance, pricing, insurance bond, multiple taxations 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 flashpoints 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 infiltrates the system,” he said.

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