The Nigerian Port Authority has disclosed that barge operators have operated on free tickets for so long and need to start paying tariffs.
Speaking in Lagos, the Managing Director, NPA, Mohammed Bello Koko, said that barge operations in the country would soon be concessioned, threatening to crack down on illegal operators.
Explaining further, he said that concessioning of the barge operations in the country would allow the government to generate revenue.
Koko, who decried the impact of some of the illegal barge operators, said the authority had come up with a standard operating procedure that would serve as minimum safety standards for the barges.
The NPA MD noted that many of the barges operating in the country had no communication systems, stressing that some of them were not even branded.
The situation, he said, made it difficult to arrest offenders when they committed crimes.
“We are encouraging the use of barges. We have come up with an SOP for barge operations because we have all types of sizes and shapes of barges that are not safe.
“The same way we have created minimum safety standards for trucks, we have also created them for barges. They have been operating on free tickets for a long, but that has to stop.”
He accused the operators of blocking the channels for vessels to berth.
“They need to pay tariffs. We will give them the concession to ensure that at least the government generates revenue from it. Most of the barges do not have communication systems, and they are not branded. So, when they commit offences, we would not even know who committed it. We have had situations where ships anchored in the middle of the channel because of a barge in front of it, and that has to stop or we will start seizing them.
“We are going to be very firm. Where we need to be brutal, we will, because the day a ship sinks in the middle of the channel we are gone.
“In the next few weeks, we will not allow some of those barges to operate. We will also insist that they do not operate at night. Some weeks ago, a barge sneaked out to operate and it bruised a vessel that was offloading liquid cargo. Imagine if that has gone aflame. If you go to Kirikiri, you will see them double banking. So, we are going to have big issues with the barge operators soon,” he said.