The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has banned their movement at night to avoid collision or impeding navigation of vessels on the channels as part of the minimum standard operating procedures to streamline the operation of barges just as the one set for the operation of trucks.
Disclosing this recently at a media parley in Lagos, the Managing Director of NPA , Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the move was to enhance safety and remove encumbrances for oncoming ships.
In one of his observations, he said that “…a few weeks ago, a barge sneaked out to operate at night and almost hit a vessel that was offloading liquid cargo; imagine if the vessel had gone aflame.”
According to him, “We have come up with a standard operating procedure for barge operations because we have all forms of barges that are not safe. Same way we created minimum standards for trucks is what we did for barges, and we have called them for meetings. They have been operating on free tickets for long, and that has to stop and they need to start paying us tariffs. We gave them concessions because at least the government generates revenue from it. Most of the barges do not have communication systems and are not identifiable individually, with their sailors often driving with reckless abandon.
“Sometimes you hear vessels blaring their horns; it’s not to signal goodbye but to tell someone to get off the channel. In fact, we have had occasions where ships had to anchor right in the middle of the channel because of a barge on the way. That has to stop, or we will start cracking down on them.”