New rules on inland waterways transportation under way

Hajiya Inna Ciroma, MD, NIWA

With the incessant occurrence of boat mishaps along the Nigeria’s inland waterways, the Federal Government, through the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has commenced action needed to reduce accidents on the water ways to the barest minimum, if not totally eradicated .The action included the attempt aimed at the formulation of codes that would ensure safety behavior and practice amongst operators.

In this attempt, the authority put in place recently, a working group to discuss issues relating to the possibilities of evolving suitable codes to guide all operations within the country’s inland waterways.

In order to actualize this, the specialized group made up of experts from the Authority, the Federal Ministry of transportation and organized private sector converged at Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, recently to deliberate on the appropriate code that would effectively regulate inland water ways transportation in the country.

The National Inland Waterways Authority which is itching to ensure safety and safe navigation on the Nigerian waterways had developed a draft code which it presented to the experts for consideration, amendment and the eventual approval.

It tagged the draft code as “a safety code, offences and penalties” as being practiced by other modes of transportation, the first of its kind in the country.

This attempt aimed at developing regulations for the inland water ways transportation practice is meant to up the practice in Nigerian to international standards and best practice.

The Managing Director of the Authority, Mrs Chiroma told the experts that her authourity was saddled with the responsibility of being the key player in the regulation, control and management of the inland water ways transportation sub-sector and the usage of its declared right of ways.

She therefore emphasized the need to have in place a safety code considering the vast length of the available inland water ways that connect no fewer than 28 states of the Federation in order to reduce the reoccurrence of boats mishaps and the attendant loss of lives and property worth billions of Naira.

It has become absolutely necessary and imperative to have an inland waterways transportation code to address the challenges” she said.

The draft code presented for scrutiny of experts and stakeholders by NIWA provided for offences and penalties. It was presented for the determination of its applicability, compliance monitoring, penalty rate and methods of enforcement.

The expert committee and stakeholders who brainstormed at Uyo on the draft code rose their three days session with observation that in addition to the provisions of the code, there was need to also include the procedure for issuing out “shipping Notices” which will be rolled out from time to time to address emerging polices, rules, guidelines that will enable authority to review. Renew or revoke some provisions of the code as and whenever appropriate to do so.

On the code of conduct for the transit of inland Shipping to Coastal Routes and vice versa, they observed that the the inland waterways transportation code as presented by NIWA did not identify with the important need to regulate the operational procedures for ships transiting from coastal routes into the inland river channels and those making return from the inland rivers into the coastal water.

For uniformity, the forum agreed that the penalties and particularly the severity of the penalties could vary from location to the other.

It therefore recommended that NIWA should put in place all necessary machineries to enable the successful implementation of the code..

The forum also asked NIWA to harmonize collaboration between Federal, states and local governments in the inland water ways domain for the successful application of the code.

According to the forum, there was the need for NIWA to engage in training and retraining of both the regulators and operators to meet up with the expectation of the inland waterways transportation code for prompt service delivery.

Besides, it emphasized the need for NIWA to speed up the action for the approval of the code for proper implementation saying it was long overdue.—International Trade Monitor