The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has established a regulatory framework for the operation of barges across the nation’s seaports under a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which must be complied by all operators effective September 1, 2021.
Further to this development, the Aithority is poised to review the modalities for the registration of barge operating license with emphasis on operators meeting the minimum safety standards ((MSS) of their barges.
Failure to meet this requirement will bar an operator from using the channel, a statement by the General Manager Corporate & Strategic communications, Olaseni Alakija noted.
He disclosed that under the new set of regulations, an electronic call up system is being developed for deployment for barge operations, in which barges would remain at their anchor until they are called to pick or discharge cargo.
This, he added, is aimed at streamlining their movements to reduce congestion and possible threat to ocean going vessels.
The NPA has in this regard also set out to capture a comprehensive profile of all barge operators, which will highlight the carriers’ corporate name, to make for easy identification, especially in line with efforts to check the deployment of dilapidated barges that are in poor state and do not meet the minimum standards for barges and tugboats.
Acting Managing Director of the Authority, Mohammed Bello Koko made these known while speaking during an interactive session with members of Barge Operators of Nigeria (BOAN) who paid him a working visit recently at the Authority’s corporate headquarters on Marina, Lagos.
Speaking during the meeting, Bello Koko stated that it is a new era in barge operations and all operators are required to key into this regulatory provisions.
The MD also told the barge operators that government has instituted a binding tariff scheme payable to NPA as well as to the operators.
“There would be a harmonised interactive session (berthing meetings) between the barge operators and the relevant designated Port Managers for specific areas where information sharing would be prioritised accordingly”, he said.
These meetings are envisaged to create a forum where illegal Barge and Jetty operators would be identified.
To create a relief for the barge operators, the NPA Chief Executive advised all Terminal operators not to demand the collection of a 20 million naira bank bond, with a promise to liaise with the relevant government agencies for a downward review of prevailing charges on carriage of Containers.
On communication, the acting Managing Director also hinted that henceforth, the installation of acceptable UHF Radio communication devices as well as navigational lights on board crafts would be among the critical mandatory requirements for operators by September 1, to ensure safe and secured operational services.
Continuing, Koko solicited the collaboration of stakeholders in ensuring that best practices are strictly adhered to in this respect, informing stakeholders that amongst the expected requirements for barge operators, there would be class and personnel certification in order to ensure that they are sea worthy.
Furthermore, he lidentified efficient barge operational systems for easy evacuation as a panacea for port congestion, as this would ensure that regulatory standards are strictly adhered to, warning that no illegality would be tolerated any longer.
On capacity, he said management is strategising for effective partnership with barge operators in the area of training to enable them acquire more knowledge on the profession which is expected to impact positively on general port operations if the regulatory standards are strictly adhered to.
To further ensure safety in navigation of barges, Tug masters are required to possess Pilot Exemption Certificate (PEC) even as night operations are abolished while double loading of barges are prohibited to prevent damage to the quayside.
While speaking on the need to deploy information communication technology( ICT) into barge operations, the NPA Chief Executive informed stakeholders that management will interface with the operators through notable NPA digital communication platforms and relevant divisions as well as personnel for a harmonised and more efficient single window operations, which is expected to stimulate operational efficiency.
Additionally, the barge operators who have been operating for close to three years without paying any tariff would now be required to make payments to the NPA, thereby generating more revenue for government.