By Innocent Orok
Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sub- sector has agreed that barging operations along the waterways around Nigeria ports will boost port operations and decongestion as well as harnessing business opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA).
The Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) in conjunction with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) which organised its first Annual Conference.The conference which attracted major stakeholders in the maritime sector and various government functionaries was with the theme, Barge Operations as a Panacea for ports Decongestion: The Benefits for the Nation under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The event was chaired by the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief Adebayo Sarunmi and had a representative of the Lagos State Governor and the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transports.
Dr. Magdalene Ajani, who represented Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation.
In his opening remarks, the president of BOAN, Mr. Edeme Kelikume noted that the association is a child of necessity that came about as a direct result of the traffic situation in and around the Lagos Ports. He said that barge operations has help to lift over 1000,000,000 tonnes of cargoes annually from the ports to various parts along the waterways, especially in Lagos and that has help in reducing the already bad traffic situation in and around Apapa in particular and Lagos in general.
The Chairman of the occasion, Chief Adebayo Sarunmi in his on his part advised that the operations of the barge operators be streamlined in order to be able to have the financial muscles required to do the business. He said that there is a need for barging services whether for the coastal water services or for the inland waterways. He further advised the group to approach the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on the issue of areas where cargoes can be dropped for easier operations and encouraged them to continue to provide the alternative to rail and road transportation.
Maryanne Olapade of the Tin Can Island Container Terminal in her presentation said that the barge operators are impacting positively on the economy and that their businesses is really promoting the maritime industry. Otunba Folarin in his speech went back memory lane to detail the kind of chaotic situation that used to characterise the use of the ports as he buttressed the need for the encouragement of barging operations in the country.
Francis Anatogu of the committee on AfCFTA in his message via zoom noted that there are many goods and services that Nigeria can trade in and so the event presented a very good opportunity for the barge operators to key into and grow their personal and national economies. He added that they can also provide end to end services within and outside the country.
The Minister of Transportation who was represented by the Permanent Secretary at the ministry, Dr Magdalene Ajani, while presenting her keynote address, said that the organisers of the programme is greatly appreciated because of the unique opportunities it presents in bringing out the inherent opportunities that are found within African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA ). She further said that Nigeria cannot afford to delay in reforming the maritime sector in order to fully benefit from AfCFTA adding that the government is committed to making sure that Nigerian investors take advantage of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF). She implored stakeholders to help in playing their legitimate roles in making the nation’s economy stronger.
Dr Ajani also said that the government is committed to making the waterways more navigable so that the movement of goods and services into the inland waterways will help boost the economy as she advises that illegal operators should be discouraged in order not to create chaos within the system.
The conference had two panel sessions moderated by Mrs. Jean Chiazor-Anisere, where all the legal, security, administrative and economic issues within the operations in the country’s waterways were examined and they agreed that there is a great need for the proper application of all resources, provision of the necessary tools, removal of administrative bottlenecks and the right investment in personel in order that the country may fully enjoy the benefits accruable from the maritime sector.
A newly developed application platform for easy operations of barging was also showcased by BOAN.
The high point of the conference was the award of various categories of awardees to deserving individuals and organisations.
A boat shaped cake was cut to Celebrate the occasion.
Hajia Bola Muse, the chairman of the organising committee in her vote of thanks said the event was a successful one as she thanked everyone who joined hands in making the occasion a success, she also advised all members to work tirelessly to take the association to the next level.