• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Caverton Marine: Promoting water transport using Nigeria-made passenger ferries

Caverton Marine: Promoting water transport using Nigeria-made passenger ferries

Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city with an estimated population of 21 million, is no doubt, grappling with the challenges of road congestion resulting from regular movement of passengers from one end of the city to another, and over-dependence on a single mode of transportation.

Despite being a coastal city with an extensive network of waterways that has huge potential for water transportation and remained underused over the years, the state just like the other 35 states and Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, depends largely on road transport to commute.

This is why Lagos roads are known for heavy traffic congestion that not only leads to loss of man-hours but also threatens human health highlighting the need for alternative modes of public transportation that are efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly.

Recently, the narrative has begun to change as the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration in Lagos has started paying serious attention to other means of transport such as railways and waterways.

Recognising the pivotal role water transportation can play in decongesting its roads and improving the overall quality of life of residents, the state government started developing water transport.

The Lagos State Government in collaboration with Caverton Marine, commenced the construction of 25 new 40-passenger capacity ferries in the Caverton Boatyard in Lagos.

The boats are built according to the specifications of Bureau Veritas, ISO 9001 Certification and Standards Organisation of Nigeria, who come to the boatyard to certify the boats.

The ferries, when deployed, will provide a viable, and efficient water transport that will serve as an integral part of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“By providing a more effective way for commuters to navigate the city, we are not only easing the daily commute but also opening up new economic opportunities, from tourism to commerce,” Olabode Makanjuola, chief executive officer of Caverton Offshore Support Group told journalists in Lagos ahead of a waterway’s familiarisation tour of Caverton Marine boatyard in Badore, Lagos recently.

According to him, the construction and operation of the ferries are creating valuable employment opportunities and helping to build a skilled workforce in the maritime sector.

“We are confident that this initiative will mark the beginning of a new era in public transportation in Lagos State. The partnership between Caverton and the Lagos State Government reflects our shared vision of a connected city, where every Lagosian has access to safe, reliable, and efficient modes of transportation,” he added.

Water transport, no doubt, helps to ease passenger movement in a hustling and bustling city like Lagos. For instance, travelling from Lagos Island to a suburban-like Ikorodu can take 3 hours by road due to traffic congestion but the same can take 20 minutes by water.

People need to be more aware of water transportation and this underscores the need for the government and private sector to promote the use of water as an alternative means of travelling.

Promoting water transport goes beyond building jetties to involve providing a means of transportation that gives comfort to the passengers.

Giving insight into the partnership, Makanjuola said the company was commissioned to build 25 flat-bottom boats for Lagos State to support water transport.

Delivering quality certified boats, he said, would boost the safety of lives and help to reduce cases of incessant boat mishaps in Nigerian inland waters.

At the Caverton Marine Boatyard in Badore-Ajah, Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, general manager of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), said that boosting local boat production would significantly reduce capital flight by 70 percent, especially at this time of high cost of foreign exchange in Nigeria.

He said the state government is committed to the sustainable development of water transportation, adding that local boat production has become very important given the rising costs of importation in Nigeria.

Emmanuel said the project with Caverton Marine is a public-private collaboration, aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the state’s water transport system by constructing locally made boats that meet international standards.

Also speaking, Olawale Musa, permanent secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, expressed confidence in the quality of the ferries built by Caverton Marine, adding that they will enhance the safety and comfort of boat transport.

He said that 15 of the 25 ferries will soon be commissioned and deployed to improve the transportation system in the state.

Musa further said that with the latest technology integrated into the ferries, the state government would be able to monitor the waterways more effectively and address gaps in the water transport system.

After building the boat, they would be deployed using the same private-public partnership model as Lagride taxis and BRT bus service, to ensure that the boats are handed over to the right people.

BusinessDay checks show that the government started acquiring Nigeria-made boats to avoid dealing with high FX involved in the importation, promote local content, and create jobs for Nigerians.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing local manufacturers is sourcing basic raw materials because they are not available in-country, which is why 80 percent of the raw materials are imported.

To build a boat locally, Caverton imports plywood, engines and other components of the boat in the phase of scarce and high foreign exchange rates.

“For all the boats to be certified by Bureau Veritas, they are to be built according to specific. They ensure the materials meet standards. We even tried getting plywood from a local manufacturer, but they failed the standard test,” Makanjuola said.

Apart from Lagos State, the firm is also discussing with Edo, Anambra and Akwa Ibom States to build boats for them as well.

Meanwhile, to drive innovation and to reduce the impact of the high cost of petrol on running the boat business, the boat builder is considering using electric engines in the future.