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).
The Acting Managing Director of NPA, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko in a statement in Lagos on Friday added that the guidelines must be complied by all operators effective Sept. 1.
The statement was signed by Mr Olaseni Alakija, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic communications of NPA.
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 at the authority’s corporate headquarters.
He added that further to this development, the authority will review the modalities for the registration of barge operating license with emphasis on operators meeting the Minimum Safety Standards ((MSS) of their barges.
He pointed out that failure to meet this requirement would bar an operator from using the channel.
”Under the new set of regulations, an electronic call up system is being developed for the deployment of barge operations in which barges would remain at their anchor until they are called to pick or discharge cargo.
”This is aimed at streamlining their movements to reduce congestion and possible threat to ocean going vessels,” he said.
The NPA, he said, will capture a comprehensive profile of all barge operators, highlight the carriers’ corporate name, to make for easy identification, especially in line with efforts to check the deployment of dilapidated barges.
“This is a new era in barge operations and all operators are required to key into this regulatory provisions.
“There will be a harmonised interactive session (berthing meetings) between the barge operators and the relevant designated Port Managers for specific areas where information sharing will be prioritised accordingly.
“These meetings are envisaged to create a forum where illegal barge and jetty operators will be identified,” he said.
To create a relief for the barge operators, Bello-Koko advised all terminal operators not to demand the collection of a 20 million naira bank bond, with a promise to liaise with relevant government agencies for a downward review of prevailing charges on carriage of containers.
On communication, he 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 Sept. 1 to ensure safe and secured operational services.
He solicited the collaboration of stakeholders in ensuring that best practices are strictly adhered to in this respect.
On capacity, he said management was strategising for effective partnership with barge operators in the area of training to enable them acquire more knowledge on the profession expected to impact positively on general port operations.
“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.
“Additionally, barge operators who have been operating for close to three years without paying any tariff will now be required to make payments to the NPA, thereby generating more revenue for government,” he said.