NIMASA: Tougher Times Await Untrained And Uncertified Boat Skippers

By Stephen Ubanna

The Lagos state Water Ways Authority,  LASWA , and the Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority, NIWA, appears to have opened the door way for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,  to enforce tougher maritime guidelines   on untrained   and uncertified  boat skippers.

The untrained and uncertified boat skippers were said to have been instrumental  to the series of boat mishaps in the littoral states,  particular, Lagos state,  over the years and now.  The argument in maritime circles was that the series of boat mishaps had occurred because  the boat skippers  pay little or no attention to  safety procedures and thus, endanger  the lives of the passengers.

Take for instance the July 3, 2020, boat mishap  at the Ikorodu area of Lagos state. The boat was said to have departed Ebute-Ero enroute to Ikorodu in violation  of night restrictions. There were said to be 19 passengers and two Crew members on board the boat, out of which 14, were male  and seven female. But the boat could not reach its destination at Ikpakodo Jetty as it had a mishap during the journey.

Perhaps, if the boat skippers  had adhered to the safety procedures by not taking off after the mishap could have been avoided. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, the agency Managing Director , had said that 14 passengers were rescued  but seven of them  died and were rescued during Search and Rescue operation between July 3 and 4, 2020.

The Ikorodu  boat mishap, may have informed why  the Joint Regulatory Task Force  of LASWA and NIWA.  has issued a  new operational guidelines  for Commercial boat operators in Lagos state. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, General Manger, LASWA,  and Eng. Sarat Braimah, his Counterpart in NIWA, were said to have  signed the new  standing operational Order. They  may have taken the bold decision as part of efforts  to effectively  guarantee the safety  of passengers patronising Commercial boats in the state.

As part of the new guidelines, , ‘’all double engine,  four –stroke engine  driven boats have been ordered  to revert  back to the pre-COVID 19 full Capacity as approved based on Inspection while all  Two –Stroke engine boats   Single should still maintain  the 75% pre-COVID 19 Capacity as approved based on Inspection by the regulatory agencies.

The LASWA and NIWA ,  Joint Regulatory Task Force, were said to have  further  stated in their  memo  that  ‘’with effect from January 2021,  all  Commercial boat operators  utilizing  tiller handle  on the outboard engines for steering and maneuvering  T-long  boat, open, and W23  boats  , open, should not hesitate to procure and mount a Hydraulic  Steering System, HSS, on their boats for improved  safety  and better maneuvering .

The Maritime Joint Task force were said to have  also sent a message for  operators of boats   using Helm Steering System for their  services. They were requested  to  procure  and mount  HSS, on their boats like the W23  boat  users for improved safety and better maneuvering  while cruising on the water ways to avoid mishap.

Many believe  that the intervention of NIMASA , to bring sanity to Commercial boat operations in the littoral states would force the operators to sit up and pay more attention to the safety of their passengers on board.

Bashir Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, who could not hide his feelings when Emmanuel, the LASWA,  General Manager, called on  his office  last week, to seek his support , was said to have made the position  of the agency clear: to get tougher on untrained and uncertified  boat skippers.The NIMASA , Director  General was said to  have also suggested ‘’the development  of a Comprehensive  safety  enforcement  guidelines and regulations across the littoral states.

He noted that ‘’the harmonisation  of the standards and procedures for safety  in the country’s territorial waters would go a long way   in minimizing  unsafe  practices by operators of  non- Conventional vessels, which  are not subject  to international standards, but only  rely  mainly on national regulations’’.‘’We have  a number of boat skippers that are not trained and not knowledgeable enough , as they do not have Certification. The only thing they  know about is  how  to maneuver the boat and thus, risks the lives of the people’’, he declared.

This may have informed why he had  told Emmanuel,  the visiting LASWA General Manager: we will now start to check that, the issue is important, that is why  I would  start  to take it  more  seriously , because charity begins at home. He was said to have further  told he LASWA  boss,  if we  have enforcement officers and they are laid back,  they will continue to watch what is happening without doing anything’’.

An  elated Jamoh, may have gladdened the heart  of his  August visitor, when he said, ‘’ I am glad to see the energy  and  Collaboration  that is developing  with the LSWA, because  we all have a  Common mandate the job of  ensuring  safety  in our water ways’’. 

He may have reminded the LASWA helmsman that the Federal  ministry of Transportation , under the close watch of Rotimi Amaechi, was in  process of ‘’buildding a unified enforcement guidelines for safety in  in the country’s water ways’’.

The NIMASA boss was said to have also assured the LASWA General Manager  that ‘’the energy between  them  would help to fast track the process’’ . However, he   urged  for  greater supervision  of  officers  engaged in enforcement of safety standards.

 He maintained that the responsibility of the agency  ‘’is to ensure  that it  monitor and supervise  the staff that are  given the responsibility  of enforcing the issue  of safety at sea.  According to him, from now, safety procedures, such as ‘’availability of life  jackets, good condition of the boat and time of use, must be certified  by enforcement officers before boats set sail’’.  This is bad news for boat skippers.

Philip Kyanet, an Assistant Director and Head of the agency  , Corporate Communications said the LASWA, General Manager ,  on his part, ‘’has promised  to intensify  information sharing  between his agency  and NIMASA , as part of efforts to improve Collaboration  for maritime safety.

The LASWA ,General Manger disclosed that  they already  have database  of  the small crafts used for Commercial services in the state  which would be made available to NIMASA.  He was excited with the NIMASA  Director General mention of the  of the planned uniform enforcement of safety  procedures by the ministry of Transportation, stressing that ‘’this is happening  because overtime  what  we generally tend to see  on the water ways  was an overlap of  various  function’’.  

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