The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is to commence a new round of licensing regime for the operation of barges across the nation’s seaports with the establishment of a regulatory framework. The NPA said that the guidelines which are under a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), must be complied with by all operators with effect from September 1, 2021. According to a statement on Friday in Lagos signed by the General Manager, Corporate and strategic communications of NPA, Mr. Olaseni Alakija, this was disclosed by NPA’s Acting Managing Director, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, while speaking during an interactive session with members of Barge Operators of Nigeria (BOAN) who paid him a working visit at the authority’s corporate headquarters. Bello said that with this development, the authority will review the modalities for the registration of barge operating license with emphasis on operators meeting the Minimum Safety Standards ((MSS) of their barges.
According to NAN, he pointed out that failure to meet this requirement would bar an operator from using the channel. He said, ”Under the new set of regulations, an electronic call-up system is being developed for the deployment of barge operations in which barges would remain at their anchor until they are called to pick or discharge cargo. This is aimed at streamlining their movements to reduce congestion and possible threat to ocean-going vessels.’’ Going further, he said the NPA will capture a comprehensive profile of all barge operators, highlight the carriers’ corporate name, to make for easy identification, especially in line with efforts to check the deployment of dilapidated barges.
The NPA boss said, “This is a new era in barge operations and all operators are required to key into this regulatory provisions. “There will be a harmonised interactive session (berthing meetings) between the barge operators and the relevant designated Port Managers for specific areas where information sharing will be prioritised accordingly. These meetings are envisaged to create a forum where illegal barge and jetty operators will be identified.’’ As a form of relief for the barge operators, Bello-Koko advised all terminal operators not to demand the collection of a N20 million bank bond, with a promise to liaise with relevant government agencies for a downward review of prevailing charges on the carriage of containers. He also said that the management of the authority is working on effective collaboration with barge operators in the area of training to help improve on capacity so as to acquire more knowledge on the profession expected to impact positively on general port operations.
He said, “Additionally, barge operators who have been operating for close to three years without paying any tariff will now be required to make payments to the NPA, thereby generating more revenue for the government.’’ Earlier in March 2021, the NPA clamped down on barges that were not sea-worthy while also sealing illegal jetties following increasing reports of abuses of process in their operations. The decision followed the establishment of an inter-agency committee comprising representatives of the NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and the Lagos State Inland Waterways Authority (LASWA). The NPA said the committee is spearheading the clearing of the waterways of lay-by barges and tugboats along the Ibeji/Ilashe axis and as far as the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal and Mile Two Bridge, as well as the removal of wrongly anchored barges that are obstructing visibility along the Kirikiri channel.