• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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How LAGFERRY is making water commuting viable option to roads

How LAGFERRY is making water commuting viable option to roads

The Lagos Ferry Services, popularly known as LAGFERRY, was launched on February 10, 2020, by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at Badore Terminal, Ajah Eti-Osa and commercial operations commenced immediately, commuting passengers and cargo across the state’s inland waterways until March 19, 2024, when the agency took stock, evaluating one thousand days of its services to the littoral state.

The management of the agency led by Abduolbaq Ladi-Balogun affirmed that the period was quite eventful and milestones attained were building blocks required to mould and achieve excellent service goals for the future.

A press statement from the agency reads; “Despite months of lockdown occasioned by the global outbreak of Corona Virus and the destructive #EndSars protest, the state-owned commercial ferry operator – LAGFERRY was able to navigate the murky waters, positively changed the narratives, berthed technology-driven, safe and efficient water transportation model, translating the vision of Governor Sanwo-Olu to create a smart-city with functional multi-modal transportation system.”

Ladi-Balogun said, “In line with the robust initiatives contained in the Strategic Transportation Master Plan (STMP) marshalled by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and current president of Nigeria, designed to optimise the socio-economic potentials of the natural water bodies in the state to mitigate the numerous challenges in its transportation sector.

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu embarked on an ambitious plan to revolutionise water transportation in the state which has emerged as one of the key focus areas for the Lagos State government. With a vision of enhancing mobility, reducing traffic congestion, and boosting the blue economy, it has implemented various initiatives and developments to transform water transportation in Lagos State,” he revealed.

He added that the primary objective of LAGFERRY is to provide safe, efficient, and reliable water transportation services to the people of Lagos. The vision is to be the go-to model and alpha solution provider in the business of water transportation which is in consonance with the Lagos State T.H.E.M.E.S PLUS Agenda of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, aim at enabling intermodal movement options and promotion of commerce and tourism, through the provision of safe efficient and technologically-driven ferry services manned by competent workforce to ensure environmental sustainability.

He reiterated the fact that Lagos State is the most populous state in Nigeria, with a population of over 20 million. It covers an approximate landmass of 3,577 square kilometres and is blessed with a vast network of water bodies, including the Lagos Lagoon, Majidun River, Five Cowries Creek, Macgregor Canal and Ologe River etc making it an ideal location to develop a robust water transportation system.

“Hence Mr. Governor’s vision for water transportation in Lagos State is to create an efficient, reliable, and sustainable mode of transportation that meets the needs of the growing population. By completing strategic projects and leveraging technological innovations, the aim is to make water transportation an attractive option for commuters and optimize the blue economy potential of Lagos’ waterways.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu’s passion for improving water transportation is evident in his commitment to creating an integrated multi-modal transport system that seamlessly connects road, rail, and water transportation as encapsulated in the THEMES PLUS agenda. By promoting water transportation as a viable alternative to road transport, he aims to ease traffic congestion and significantly reduce travel time for commuters.

“Under his leadership, the Lagos State government has demonstrated unwavering commitment to transforming water transportation by allocating substantial resources and implementing comprehensive policies and projects. This commitment is driven by the belief that efficient and sustainable water transportation is vital for the economic growth and development of Lagos State, which LAGFERRY has proven to be the key driver of this vision,” Balogun added.

The statement further revealed that under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration, the re-invigorated Lagos Ferry Services is running water transportation in 24 routes from 16 terminals/jetties with 19 commercial boats, while the government is rehabilitating and constructing 15 new terminals/jetties across the state, dredging of routes, channelisation removal of wrecks and water hyacinths etc.

He, however, said the transformation of water transportation in Lagos State has not been without challenges. These include issues such as inadequate infrastructure, encroachment on waterways, insufficient public awareness, insufficient boats/ferries and the need for increased security and safety measures. The government is, however, committed to addressing these challenges through sustained efforts and collaborations with relevant stakeholders (LASWA, NIWA, MARINE POLICE AND NAVY). This collaboration has ensured adequate security and swift and prompt emergency response on the waterways.

Stressing to achieve the vision of transforming water transportation, Governor Sanwo-Olu assembled a team of experienced and dedicated professionals. These individuals, including experts in maritime affairs, transport, and urban planning, work together to comprehensively assess the existing infrastructure and bottlenecks as well as collaborate with various stakeholders to identify the key challenges and develop strategies for improvement. This process involved consultations with experts, public hearings, and a detailed feasibility study to execute the government’s plans effectively and efficiently thus paving the way for the blue economy.

According to him, “a crucial aspect of the water transportation transformation is the integration of multiple transport modes. This integration allows for seamless connectivity between roads, rails, and waterways, providing commuters with convenient and efficient travel options. By developing an integrated multi-modal transport system, the government aims to reduce reliance on private vehicles and alleviate traffic congestion in Lagos State. With the commencement of operations of the blue and red line rails, commuters have been given transport movement options to their respective destinations.

“To enhance the overall water transportation experience, Lagos State government has embraced technological innovations. These include the implementation of modern ticketing systems, real-time tracking and monitoring of vessels, and the development of user-friendly mobile applications for trip planning and information dissemination. These innovations make water transportation more accessible, reliable, and appealing to commuters.

“LAGFERRY to date has ferried over 1 million passengers since its re-launch on February 6, 2020, enabled innovative logistics solutions for industries and corporate Lagos through cargo barge operation, recently constructed and completed a state-of-the-art, modern floating pontoon at CMS-Marina to provide a convenient berthing point and interconnectivity movement of the blue rail and bus rapid transport system for commuting residents and visitors alike.” He asserted.

Revealing that the agency constructed a well-equipped E-Fleet Surveillance system with modern technology to monitor boat arrival and take-off on the waterways. The government has made strategic investments in ensuring the availability of amenities like well-equipped and furnished as well as state-of-the-art terminals, jetties, ticketing booths, waiting areas and security measures to improve the overall passenger experience. Furthermore, efforts have been made to improve last-mile connectivity by providing connectivity between waterways and other modes of transportation, such as buses and motorcycles.

He said, “To facilitate seamless water transportation, Lagos State has invested in the establishment and renovation of terminals, landings, (floating) jetty(ies) along various waterways. These terminals serve as key transit points, enabling commuters to board and disembark from boats and ferries comfortably and safely. Furthermore, water transportation in Lagos State caters to a diverse range of passengers with different backgrounds. From daily commuters to tourists and business travellers, the water transport system offers a convenient and efficient mode of travel. The inclusive approach of the initiative has ensured that the needs and preferences of all passengers are taken into consideration.

“The development of water transportation in Lagos State goes hand in hand with the optimisation of the blue economy. By harnessing the potential of the waterways, the state is creating employment opportunities and economic growth in industries such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and maritime activities.”

Standard model of water transportation:

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration has worked towards developing a standard model for water transportation in Lagos State. This involves defining regulations, safety protocols, and quality standards to ensure a reliable and secure commuting experience for all passengers. Hence LAGFERRY became a benchmark for other boat and ferry operators within the State and Lagos State Waterways Authority is the regulatory body. This enables the government to attract more private sector investment and create a competitive market for water transportation services.

The overhaul of water transportation in Lagos State has set a standard for other states in Nigeria and beyond. The effective implementation of modern technology, infrastructure development, and operational efficiency has become a benchmark for other regions looking to improve their water transportation systems. Lagos State’s success has proven that water transportation can be a viable and sustainable solution to urban congestion challenges.

With any mode of transportation, risks and insurance play a crucial role in ensuring safety and security. The government of Lagos State has implemented strict regulations and safety measures to mitigate risks associated with water transportation. Additionally, insurance policies have been introduced to protect both passengers and operators. LAGFERRY has had its fair share of operating risk, recording two incidents last year with no life lost, insurance policies put in place however ensured adequate cover. One of the primary objectives of transforming water transportation is to alleviate the traffic density experienced on Lagos roads. By shifting a significant portion of commuter traffic to the waterways, the government aims to improve road network efficiency, reduce travel time, and enhance the overall quality of life for residents.

With Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership and vision, water transportation in Lagos State has experienced an uncommon transformation. Through strategic investments, technological innovations, adopting chest practices and a commitment to the blue economy, the government has successfully created an integrated multi-modal transport system that provides a reliable, sustainable, and efficient alternative to road-based commuting. It has revolutionised commuting patterns.

Hence the success achieved by Governor Sanwo-Olu and his sailors serves as an inspiration for other states and countries grappling with transportation challenges.

Akeem Odusina is of Public Affairs Unit, LAGFERRY