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As Lagos lifts water transportation

“The current traffic situation indicates that 95 percent of transportation is done by road in our state of over 22 million people with about 25 percent of the landmass consisting of waterways.’’ – Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Over the last two years, addressing the transportation and traffic challenges of Lagos State has been a major preoccupation of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Administration.

The growing interest in water transportation by residents of Lagos State has received an encouraging response from the State Government.

The State Government has expanded the capacity of the Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) with the delivery of seven additional high-capacity speed boats to shore up the agency’s fleet for rapid transit on the waterways.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently flagged off the use of the new boats for commercial operations at an event held at the administrative yard of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Five Cowries Terminal in Falomo, Ikoyi.

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The boats are built to international standard and equipped with modern gadgets, such as wifi, GPS, Echo Sounder, VHF Radio, USB Charging ports, 13amp sockets, television and radio, toolbox, First Aid box, and fire extinguishers.

The new boats launched include two units of 50-seater and five units of 30-seater, with one utility boat for operational purposes. They will operate on all approved routes for LAGFERRY, and passengers are to use the Cowry Card for payment for the ferry services.

Sanwo-Olu also launched the use of Cowry Card for passengers using water transportation to create a seamless payment scheme in line with the state’s multimodal transportation system.

This integrates LAGFERRY’s services to an automated payment solution already created for the BRT services and the state-owned rail lines, which are coming on board.

The impressive performance of LAGFERRY in the last one year is an indication of the growing confidence of the residents in water transportation. This justifies the government’s decision to procure additional boats to enhance LAGFERRY’s operations and capacity to meet the transportation demands of its teeming passengers.

The procurement of these new high-capacity boats is in fulfillment of Mr. Governor’s promise to double the number of boats in the fleet of LAGFERRY and increase its capacity to reduce traffic congestion on our roads.

In February, 2020, Governor Sanwo-Olu formally kicked off commercial waterways’ transportation with the official launch of eight new modern speed boats. Three of the boats have the capacity to carry 60 passengers, two were built to carry 50 passengers, while two others have capacities for 40 passengers. Also, three others could convey 30 passengers, four will carry 25 passengers while two will carry 25 passengers.

With the recent addition to the fleet, LAGFERRY had scaled up its carrying capacity to 710 passengers per trip.

Since inception, according to the agency’s Managing Director, Ladi Balogun, LAGFERRY had not recorded any accident, but had raised the standard of ferry operations on the State’s waterways.

Ladi disclosed that after 317 days of operations, LAGFERRY has ferried over 524,000 passengers through the waterways with an increasing daily average passenger flow of over 1,500. A total of 12-seater boats have collectively ran 7,061 hours spanning 286,280 kilometers for 10,182 trips.

However, the government is not resting on its oars as LAGFERRY has deployed more boats and increased daily trips in order to provide a safe, fast and reliable alternative mode of transportation. Also, four new navigable ferry routes have been opened up to complement existing routes.

The channelisation, which involves dredging of ferry routes, creating a path of 40-metre width and four-meter minimum depth to accommodate bigger boat movement includes the channelisation of 4km ferry route from Mile 2 to Marina already in use, channelisation of 6.4km ferry route from Ebute (Ikorodu) – Ilaje (Falomo), 10.3km route from Ojo to Badagry and 4.10km Ilaje (Bariga) to white-sand in Oyingbo which are almost completed.

The new routes are to complement the existing ones, namely, Ipakodo (Ikorodu) to Addax/Five Cowries in Falomo; Ipakodo (Ikorodu) to CMS/Marina; and Badore (Tarzan) to Ijede; Ebute Ojo to Liverpool to CMS/Marina. Others are Mile 2-Liverpool-CMS/Marina, Baiyeku (Ikorodu) to Oke-Ira Nla to Badore in Ajah and Ilaje to Bariga to Ebute Ero and CMS.

To further improve safety on the waterways and also free the waterways of wreckage and debris, prevent erosion and degradation of the shorelines, the government has removed four abandoned wrecked ships, debris and unwanted objects found on the waterways.

Similarly, 15 new reinforced concrete jetties, located at various riverine areas of the State, would soon be commissioned for the use of Lagosians before the end of the year. This is expected to raise the capacity of LAGFERRY to move 75,000 to 100,000 passengers daily.

With the current level of investment in water transportation, Lagos, no doubt, stands to experience appreciable upsurge in socio-economic activities. For instance, the expansion of trade to the Lekki Free Trade Zone will be easy to access by water from international waterways to local inland waterways.

Also, inter-costal trade will experience ease such that traders will be able to move their commodities via ships and other water transport modes. Therefore, the menace of tankers and heavy duty trucks on the roads will be drastically reduced.

Presently, LAGFERRY is facilitating cargoes movement and providing innovative solutions to logistic challenges of industries, importers and manufacturers. It currently conveys trucks from its Mile 2 Jetty to Apapa Seaport to load containers. The hassles of doing the same by road are being greatly reduced by the option of moving them on water via LAGFERRY’s badges.

In-spite of the modest successes recorded in promoting water transportation, Sanwo-Olu administration is desirous of embracing additional strategic initiatives that could enhance water transportation in the State. Hence, it has identified about thirty commercial routes on the State’s waterways for dredging and channelization, while more jetties are being constructed across the state.

In view of the government’s impressive initiatives toward improving water transportation, all stakeholders must, thus, join hands together to develop this mode of transportation in order to maximize its potential. However, proper compliance to rules and regulation guiding the use of the waterways must be strictly adhered to by all stakeholders.

*Odumade is of the Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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