Maritime Safety: NPA Goes Tough, Suspends Licensing of Barges

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NPA MD, Mohammed Bello Koko

 By Shola Fadeyi

    In a bid to enhance safety on the waterways and achieve   standard , the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has begun stiff regulation of the operations of the barge operators in the nation’s  seaports.                   

    As a  prelude ,it has temporarily  frozen  the licensing   of barges ,  with a view to soon wield out  operators it considered not to have measured up to standard,  thus  stopping them   from  operations, invariably.

Consequently,  it is set to kick off a comprehensive review  of their operations  , following which it will finally  remove the  names of  the ones which barges are below standard.                

     The new measures have been part of the Authority’s need  to pursue the enforcement of  Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the barge operators, to sanitise their operations and  achieve  a regime of   manageable number of quality  barges  , which will  be in good state and equipped  with the required Communications equipment.

Though the Authority has permitted only five barge operators to be operating  in the interim, it is however resolved to begin a new licensing regime in the the third quarter of  this year, during which  it plans to license only those which will meet the rules  it is to come up with for them.        

          The NPA Managing Director, Mr Mohammed Bello Koko  who confirmed the developments in Lagos recently, said that the Authority would no longer condone the existence of substandard barges and the lawlessness and impunity  with which they were operating on the Nigerian waters, hence the need for it to closely regulate and monitor their operations henceforth.               

 According  to him, ” We have frozen the licensing   of new barges  for now.We will de-list those we think do not meet up with our requirements and we would come up  with additional requirements for those that measure up  .                   

           “Due to the bad state of some of the barges, some of them have been known to sink , while containers have fallen off some, while on motion.  We would not want to allow such to continue to happen , for safety purpose.              

    “We want on behalf of the Federal Government to first  create standard and quality among the operators, with the hope to use that to increase their numbers.                      This is why , by the next quarter , we would be licensing those who meet the very stringent   requirements that we are going to set for them.     

                           ‘ ‘ For instance, we would no longer allow them to operate at night , while we would insist that every barge must have the vital communication gadgets , such as the the instrument landing system .        

    ‘’ Imagine one of the barges secretly operated at night the other time, and went to bruise a vessel  , which was discharging petroleum product at berth , but it was through the grace of God that a fire outbreak did  not  occur’’.