- Ag Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko (middle), BOAN President, Edeme Kelikume (second right), NPA General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Olaseni Alakija (right), and other members of BOAN executive committee after the meeting the NPA headquarters in Lagos
By Anthony Nwachukwu
Effect from September 1, 2021, all barge operators across the nation’s seaports must comply with a fresh regulatory framework under a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has said.
Among the critical mandatory requirements for operators by September 1 is the installation of acceptable UHF radio communication devices and navigational lights onboard crafts to ensure safe and secure operational services, NPA Ag Managing Director, Mohammed Bello Koko, stated.
Koko, who disclosed this in Lagos during an interactive session with members of Barge Operators of Nigeria (BOAN), added that government has instituted a binding tariff scheme payable to NPA, as well as to the operators.
Under the new set of regulations, an electronic call-up system, which requires barges to remain at their anchor until called to pick or discharge cargo, is also being developed to streamline their movements, and reduce congestion and possible threat to ocean-going vessels.
Further to this, the NPA said it would review the modalities for the registration of barge operating license, with emphasis on operators meeting the minimum safety standards ((MSS) for their barges, failure of which will bar an operator from using the channel.
Plans also include a comprehensive profile of all barge operators, which will highlight a carrier’s corporate name for easy identification, and help check the deployment of vessels that fail the minimum standards for barges and tugboats.
“There would be a harmonised interactive session between the barge operators and the relevant designated port managers for specific areas, where information sharing would be prioritised accordingly,” a statement from the General Manager, Corporate & Strategic Communications, Olaseni Alakija, cited Koko to say.
These sessions (berthing meetings) are intended to create a forum where illegal barge and jetty operators would be identified.
Meanwhile, as a form of relief to the barge operators, Koko has asked all terminal operators not to demand the N20 million bank bond, promising to liaise with the relevant government agencies for a downward review of prevailing charges on container carriage.
He solicited stakeholder-collaboration to achieve adherence to best practices, adding that there would be class and personnel certification to ensure their sea-worthiness.
In terms of capacity, he said the agency was planning to partner barge operators in training to enable them acquire more professional knowledge that will positively impact general port operations if regulatory standards are strictly adhered to.
Similarly, to strengthen navigational safety for barges, tug masters are required to possess Pilot Exemption Certificate (PEC) even as night operations are banned, while double-loading of barges are prohibited to prevent damage to the quayside.
On the need for information communication technology in barge operations, Koko said the NPA would interface with operators through its notable digital communication platforms and relevant divisions/personnel for a harmonised and more efficient single window operations towards operational efficiency.
Additionally, the barge operators who have not been paying tariff since about three years of operation are now required to pay to the NPA.