The National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, on Wednesday projected the movement of no less than two million containers through the Nigerian inland waterways annually by 2025.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, said this while speaking at a virtual breakfast meeting organised by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, NCS.
The theme of the meeting was: “Barge Operations System: A Sustainable Alternative to Land Transportation of Cargoes.”
Mr Moghalu, represented by NIWA’s General Manager, Marine, Joseph Ororo, expressed optimism that vessel fleet which include barge and tugs, would surpass 50,000 in three years.
According to Mr Moghalu, the future looks very bright for inland waterway business.
“We look forward that, in the next three years, that is, by year 2025, we aim to achieve two million containers moved through the inland waterways per annum.
“We expect 500 daily trips of vessel traffic to and from the ports, eight million metric tons of cargoes conveyed on the inland waterways per annum and employment of two million personnel in this sector,” he said.
Mr Moghalu added that NIWA inspected and registered 332 barges and 264 tugs of different categories nationwide in 2021, adding that the authority would remain focus in encouraging vast job opportunities in the sector.
He said that transporting of cargoes by barges was a very important development in the country considering the enormous challenges and bottlenecks being witnessed in other modes of transportation.
The NIWA boss said that though barge was still a developing mode of transportation in Nigeria, they must admit it was not being well regulated at present.
Mr Moghalu advised that relevant government agencies responsible for these should synergise to ensure that minimum standard operating procedures were put in place to sustain the activities of barge operators.
“From the barge operators’ point of view which we cannot dispute for now, they posited that 750,000 containers were moved from the Lagos Port by barges on an average of 50 barge trips per day.
“This statistic is very commendable but not fantastic to be cheered about by all standard considering the enormous potential and advantages Nigeria has in respect of this.
“We strongly feel that more can be done in this respect,” he said.
In his contribution, Olubunmi Olumekun, the President of Barge Operations Association of Nigerian, BOAN, said that the way forward for the sector would be for all operators and agencies to come on board so that things could move on well.
Also speaking, Dr Kayode Farinto, the Acting National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, urged the Federal Government to provide incentives for barge operators.
According to Mr Farinto, there is also the dire need to indigenise the sector as foreigners with access to loans at single-digit interests might hijack the lucrative business of barging.
He advised NIWA to address the menace of night movement of barges and passenger boats, and the problem of carbon emission from vessels.
Earlier, the President of NCS, Andy Isichei, in his welcome address called for an integrated transport system for the country.
According to him, the integrated transport system is being operated around the world but that Nigeria is struggling to have such.
“The importance of the discussion today and its direct relationship to economic stability of the country shall not be lost on us, likewise; the importance of waterways to the decongestion of the port cannot be over emphasised.
“The conditions of our roads are bad and those leading to the ports are in terrible state. These had led to loss of lives, cargoes and increased inefficiency.
“These challenges on our roads had led us to fall back to the barges to help decongest our roads and the issues of standards and regulation will now come to play,” he said.
Mr Isichei urged the regulatory agencies to set up standards so that barges that did not meet such would not be used.