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’’.