The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, has said that the huge opportunities that abound in the nation’s inland waterways could only be maximised if there is sufficient funding and concerted efforts are made to develop the infrastructure.
He also stressed the need for a regulatory framework aimed at actualising this, adding that the vision of NIWA is to make Nigeria the leader in inland waterway transportation, development and management in Africa.
Moghalu stated this during the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo’s facility tour of the NIWA Port-Harcourt Area Office and commissioning of the newly-acquired patrol and passenger ferry boats at the weekend.
The NIWA boss said the development of infrastructural facilities for a national inland waterway network that will connect the creeks and rivers with the economic centres using the river ports as nodal points for intermodal exchange is essential for positioning Nigeria in Africa.
He said consequently, the Authority has licensed several companies for the transportation of cargo across the waterways in the country, especially, from Lagos and Onne ports to the hinterlands and vice versa.
Moghalu said to achieve more of these, the Authority is poised to continuously ensure the development of indigenous manpower as well as providing navigational aids, river training works, wreck surveys and removal.
Others, he said include, establishment of river gauges, construction of jetties, capital and maintenance dredging, the establishment of search and rescue stations, rivercraft certification, training of boat drivers and crew, as well as continuous safety sensitisation campaigns.
He said the sixth batch of training and certification of boat skippers by the Authority is ongoing in Lagos, adding that expatriates are also participating in the training and certification exercise by the Authority.
Moghalu said the commissioning of the newly acquired two patrol boats (PB-Gusau and PB-Jalingo), as well as a 32-seater passenger ferry boat, is to enhance the operational efficiency of the Authority.
He said this is in addition to the over 20 patrol boats as well as a tugboat, houseboat and water ambulance for distribution to various Area Offices of the Authority in the last year.
On his part, the Minister of Transportation, Sambo, said the Inland waterways as alternative means of moving economic goods and persons, are key to the development of any country endowed with water.
He said Nigeria is blessed such that 28 States can be accessed by water, adding that if the country develops these waterways, logistics costs will reduce, while export commodities will be very competitive with those of other countries across the world.
The Minister charged the NIWA boss to ensure the commencement of the Marina Area Office project as a hub for trans-shipping cargo from Lagos through the Intercostal route through, Warri, Onitsha up to Baro.
He also charged the NIWA management to ensure the channel management is operationalised speedily.
He further called for the monitoring of the Onitsha Port concessionaire and to ensure they have a very capable technical partner who will increase the value of the port by modernising the cargo handling equipment and other infrastructure that will move cargo seamlessly and worthy of all the efforts.