BOAT MISHAPS: Experts Call For Proper Equipment On Boats, Enforcement Of Safety Measures 

The Chattered Institute of Transport and Logistics (CILT) has advised the federal government through the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to ensure that boats plying the nation’s water ways are properly equipped, especially with speed limiter to curtail over speeding by operators.

The Acting Executive Director of CILT, Mr. Paul Ndibe, who made the disclosure in a chat with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos, also advised that government should capture the standardization of sizes and designs of boats while drawing-up its transportation policy.

He reiterated that the government should ensure that operators are properly experienced before they can be licensed to operate, adding that there must be enforcement in terms of the level of training and skills these operators go through.

Ndibe warned against night navigation, adding that since the boats are not equipped to navigate at night, it will be suicidal to do so.

He said: “Finally the route where they take off and the time of anchoring, if you bringing the rule of commercial operation it should be limited to daylight hours, that will help. Because at night you are likely to have a limited visibility and since these boats don’t have navigational aid it will endanger them the more. Speed is also another factor; part of what they should do is to install speed limiter on these boats. Because when they are in a higher speed it might be difficult for them to control that and if they run into a wave, they might not be able to control that”.

He however maintained that state of the mind of operators should always be checked, even as he warned against overloading of boats.

“Two things are involved; one of them is standardizing the boats, luckily the Lagos state government has just held its public presentation of their grand transport policy. So, in the cause of drawing their transport policy if they can standardize the sizes and designs of the boats to be used for commercial transportation on our waterways that will help. Because standardizing it will ensure that people have enough passenger space to ensure that they do not overload, some of these mishaps arise when there is overload and when there is wave the weight of the boat will be one sided.  The people that operate these boats, how experienced are they in terms of licensing and all that”, he added.

“So there must be enforcement in terms of the level of training and skill. The other one is the state of mind of those operating these boats, if you are under any influence say alcohol; you are likely to endanger the lives of these passengers. So there must be a licensing regime where they have to check the state of mind of the operators and it will be part of their licensing and then have enough monitoring were everybody on the boat must wear a life jacket”, he stated further.

Also speaking a maritime lawyer, Emmanuel Nwagbara, in a separate interview told our correspondent that the regulatory authorities should not stop at churning out safety regulations, but should follow it up with enforcement.

He accused boats operators of overloading their boats, especially during night travel, adding that they do all these because of lack of officers to enforce regulations.   

On boat mishaps, he said: “It is a very unfortunate incidence occurring frequently on our waters, I think that the regulatory authorities would not just stop at churning our safety regulations; they should go a step further by enforcing those safety regulations. If you notice in most cases, the number of persons that will board a boat is usually exceeded particularly during night time and those is because the officers who are in charge of enforcement by this hour of the evening had either relaxed the rules or were not on hand to enforce the safety rules. And as a result, operators of the boats relax the rules and safety measures and taking risks by over loading their boats and not ensuring that even the safety jackets are in place”.

Nwagbara charged the NIWA to ensure that there is a response mechanism in place to ensure that there is quick response in case of any mishap, stressing that people die during mishap because there was no quick response as at the time of the accident.

He maintained that with quick response a lot of people would be saved than what is obtained now.

“Enforcement of the rules are steps further that must be taken to ensure reduction in boat mishaps. Another is lack of patrol of our waters, you don’t rule out accidents, but there must be response mechanism in place in the event of occurrence of boat mishap. Boat mishap may occur but what is the rescue measure in place. From the stories that we hear, many of these people drawn following a boat mishap because for a long time, there were no respondent”, he said.

Nwagbara advised the agency to always ensure that there are distress signals on the boats which can enable them signal others in terms of emergency.

“If there were ready respondents we would save many people that are involved in boat mishaps. Apart from the extant safety measures, there should be further safety measures which should inquire operators to make a distress signal and this distress instruments should be part of the construction of the boat or where they didn’t come with it, they should be made to  put the equipment in the boat”

“So that wherever the sea becomes turbulent and the operators come to a conclusion that there is likely to be a mishap, he could trigger that alarm and attract respondents wherever they could be so that help could come. What you see right now is the boat will probably capsize and sink except there is somebody who is somewhere to see that a boat has capsized, nobody will know that such a thing happened”, he lamented.

According to him, “because we don’t have patrol officers all over our waters. But if we have these distress signals, it might even attract ships or boats that are passing or within that same water routes to their rescue”.