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‘Lagos-Onitsha Barge Operations an insult to S’East, River Ports’

South East importers and maritime experts have described the recent licensing of some companies to be ferrying containers from Lagos ports to Onitsha River Port as an insult to South East business owners.

They also saw the move as further way of rubbishing the value chain of the refurbished River Ports which had waited for several years for concessioning process.

Followers of Onitsha River Port redevelopment querry why instead of announcing the concessionaire so that the facility will become useful at least for once for the South East, cleared containers are to be ferried by barges to the facility refurbished by Goodluck Jonathan administration with over N10bn.

The facility which only issue since to incoming of the present administration, is just to concession it, had remained moribond since the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Recall that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has concluded plans to commence barge operations from Lagos ports to Onitsha after granting licenses to eight companies for the service, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), barge operators and other shipping experts have outlined possible challenges.

The Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello during an interview warned that the challenge of dredging, charting and security should be addressed ahead of barge operations to Onitsha from Lagos ports.

Bello, however, commended NIWA for the initiative while pointing out that the risks have to be minimized to encourage shippers to patronize barging through the route.

“Barging is good but it has to be regulated. There must be security for cargoes; safety on navigation, there must be insurance and time of operation has be considered. Can we move at night? Are our waters navigable to avoid accidents with barges running into sandbars? All these concerns must be addressed but we must commend NIWA so far,” the NSC boss said.

The President of Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Mr. Edeme Kelikume has also noted that “We encountered lots of security challenges as well as navigational challenges. The water needs to be dredged further to aid barge operations, but we can manage to continue doing it for now,” the BOAN President said.

Giving a broad perspective of barging operations in the country, Edeme said: “Today in Lagos waterways, you can move your barges from Apapa to Epe heading to Agbara without fear of being attacked. We have few instances where some hoodlums try to jump on your boat and harass the Captain or break containers, but such cases are very rare. For the Eastern ports to achieve this, NIMASA, Navy, Marine Police and others have to be involved in a collaborative effort.”