Worried by the increasing cases of boat mishaps on the nation’s waterways, the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency NIMASA has proposed the development of cohesive safety enforcement guidelines and regulations for implementation across the littoral states.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who made this proposal, spoke in Lagos when he played host to the General Manager, Lagos State Waterways Authority LASWA, Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, who paid him a courtesy visit.

He said it has become expedient to harmonise the standards and procedures for safety on the nation’s territorial waters, which would go a long way in minimising unsafe practices by operators of non-conventional vessels, which are not subject to international regulations and standards, and therefore rely primarily on national regulations, which have not been very effective.

The DG warned that the agency would get tough with untrained and uncertified boat skippers, who often ignore safety procedures and endanger the lives of passengers.

“We have a number of boat skippers that are not trained, and not knowledgeable enough and they do not have certification. They only know how to maneuver the boat and risk people’s lives.

“We will now start to check that. The issue is important, that is why I would start to take it more seriously because charity begins at home. If we have enforcement officers and they are laid back, they will continue to watch what is happening without doing anything.

“I am glad to see the synergy and collaboration that is developing with the Lagos State Waterways Authority because we all have as our common mandate the job of ensuring safety on our waters”, he also stated.

It was however gathered that the Federal Ministry of Transport is at the verge of completing the process that would lead to the establishment of unified enforcement guidelines for safety in the country’s waters. It is therefore expected that the current synergy between NIMASA and the Lagos State Government would help to fast track the process with a view to reducing boat accidents on the nation’s inland waterways.

The DG, who urged greater supervision of officers engaged in the enforcement of safety standards said:

“Our responsibility is to ensure that we monitor and supervise the members of staff that are given the responsibility of enforcing the issue of safety at sea.

“Safety procedures, such as availability of adequate lifejackets, good condition of the boat, and the time of sailing, must be verified by enforcement officers before a boat sets sail”.

In his own remarks, the LASWA General Manager promised to intensify information sharing between his agency and NIMASA as part of efforts to improve collaboration for maritime safety.

“We have the database of small craft, which I believe that we would be ready to share with NIMASA,” Emmanuel said.

He also elaborated on the importance of uniform enforcement procedure, saying, “I am really excited that this is happening because overtime what we generally tend to see on the waterways is an overlap of so many functions. I am sure it is not news to anyone here the issues we have had over the years between LASWA and  the National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA and how that has affected the things that have happened on the waterways.”