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NPA out with new barge operating licensing regime soon

...To delist some existing licenses

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has considered plans for a new licensing regime for barge operations in Nigeria.

Managing Director of the NPA, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, made this known at a media interactive session at the weekend.

Speaking on some of NPA’s regulatory functions such as barge operations, the managing director said that a number of safety breaches by operators in the sub-sector necessitated the need to review the standard of operations.

Bello-Koko disclosed that the new plans would warrant delisting licenses of operators who failed to meet the set standard.

“We froze barge licensing. Until we review the current ones, we would delist those we feel do not meets our requirements. Those who meet the requirements, we will give them the additional requirements to meet. It is not the numbers that matter, it is the quality.

“We have seen videos of containers falling off barges at berth. We have seen barges sinking also. So, it is not the number of barges that matter, it is the quality of the barges. We should create standard and ensure quality, then you can start increasing the numbers, with the same quality.”

Narrating some obvious safety shortfalls by some of the barge operators, Bello-Koko said:  “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. We are going to be very firm on this. The day a ship sinks in the middle of the channel is the day we are done. We will also insist that they don’t operate at night.

“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. You sometimes see them double-banking or even triple-banking, which is not allowed.

“I believe that shortly, we will allow those that met our requirement to have license, but we are not adding new ones now, until we resolve that. In the next quarter, I believe the licensing regime would begin.”

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