CILT seeks licensing, regulation of barge operators by terminal operators


Following the recent barge accident in Lagos resulting into loss of goods worth millions of naira, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has called for the responsibility to register barges that will come to the terminals to load goods to be entrusted to the terminal operators.

This, the institute said would place the responsibility on the terminal operators on event of any accident and not necessarily the barge owner or the operator.

The National Executive Director, CILT, Nigeria, Mr. Paul Ndibe who spoke in an interview with our correspondent in Lagos on Friday also believed that entrusting the job of registering the barges on the hands of the terminal operators would enable them to register only barges that they were confident and sure could deliver.

On the licensing of the barge operators by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Ndibe said, “These are issues of government not also streamlining some of these things. There are clear limits of responsibility. As we speak, does NPA control any port? So, they can only supervise as the landlord. So, for the fact that they don’t run or operate any port, they supervise, what is their interest in barge operation? But on the side of NIWA, all movements on internal waters fall under the supervision of NIWA. So, if NIWA has demonstrated interest on movement over the body of water that is within the country, one can listen to them.

“But the critical thing is whoever is licensing or supervising, if you attach those barges to NIWA, of course, they won’t be able to implement much. But for terminal operators that would hand in cargo or these barges would deliver cargo to them, they should be able to license, maybe a group of operators or one operator and give the standard of the barges that they want to come to their terminals. In that case, there will be synergy between the operators and the terminal operators. But whatever, at any rate, NIWA can be the higher level supervisory body but the operational level should be between the barge operators and the terminal operators.”

Tracing the genesis of barge operation in Nigeria, he stated that the barge operations came up to close up certain needs in the maritime industry adding that they were services that were quite clear and obvious such that by the time they came in, it was a saving grace.

“But the critical thing is that government would have use the opportunity of their coming in to really establish the rules guiding them and have a monitoring system where compliance will be there but government didn’t do that and even just lately, there was maritime transport policy draft that they all talked about and I don’t think in that maritime transport policy, there was devotion of time and resources to barge operations. They were more into big scale shipping which also, I would say, as a person now would have reflected the view of the government.

“You see, most of the things that have prospered in Nigeria are usually private sector driven. If they have realized the importance of barge operation, they would have given it a deep thought in that maritime transport policy. I don’t think it was well covered. That it is one error, now that would show you to what extent the government showed deep interest in the operation of barges and because they are business people, the expectation is that they will do it to the best of their capacity. But if there are standards and there is enforcement of compliance, of course, some of these things (accidents) will not happen and of course, they will still be in operation.

“I understood that they (boat operators) elect to seize operation not because their services are no longer required but in sympathy to what happened, they decided to withdraw their services for now, may be to look more inwards. So, it is still an opportunity for government and all concerned to look into regulating the operations just like the truck drivers. Who is regulating the trucks they are importing, the healthiness of those trucks? And even the drivers that operate them, who is looking into all that?

“So, also is the barges they are using, how healthy are those barges? Who certified them in terms of strength and how do you weigh the cargo that you put on those barges in order to know the tolerable weight the barge can carry? Some of them are not self-propelling, they have to be pushed. So, because of the pushing, what are the retardations we are going to expect in that? These are the things the government has to look into.

“While they are operating, you streamline all these things, have a standard barges that Nigerians would accommodate in certain ports and then, the distance they may or may not cover in terms of strength, in terms of whoever  is towing or whether they are self-propelling. If they are self-propelling, what is the capacity? So, these are the limiting clauses that we expect, I don’t think they are there and with this now, it has opened up that window that all concerned should put heads together and address these concerns”, he submitted.

On what becomes of the owners of the goods that fall into the water, he said, “Except they are not imported goods, if they are imported goods and they have not gone to the warehouse, it is covered by insurance. What we don’t know is whether this level of accident is covered by insurance but all peril should be covered. Provided there is insurance cover on those good, the owners won’t suffer loss except there is proven case of negligence. But if there is no prove case of negligence, of course, it is covered by insurance.”

Photo: National Executive Director, CILT Nigeria, Mr. Paul Ndibe.

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