Between the last four months, the Nigerian inland waterways have witnessed consistent boat mishaps claiming lives, properties, displacing families and inflicting injuries on victims.
The data on the number of victims who have lost their lives and affected by the boat mishaps is shooting at 100, if not more; because, the incident at Ogbaru , Anambra state accounted for 76 deaths only.
The stark reality is that the National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) responsible for regulatory, engineering, marine, transport, survey and environmental service on the Water transportation seemed to be focused at reactive responses rather than proactive measures to curb and eliminate boat mishaps. Often times, the national dailies, video and audio conversations are content on how the Agency commiserates with the victims and no further research to dig what specifically stormed the boat. It’s not news to blame overloading, speeding, poor management, non compliance to safety measures by passengers and watercraft operators such as not wearing life jackets on shore and transporting passengers and cargoes beyond 7.00pm as the triggers.
We acknowledge that NIWA has gazetted Seven years imprisonment for watercraft operators and passengers who breach water safety rules, commissioned patrol boats, donated large sitting capacity of ferry boats and life jackets to different water stations across the nations including deployment of ambulance on waterways. While these efforts add value to water transportation; they are downscale measures that do not reflect trends in the industry.
NIWA instead of these traditional efforts should employ technology and digital innovations to carry its services to the inland waterways; after all, NIWA actively keyed into the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2022 theme for the industry- “New Technologies for Greener Shipping”.
For instance, Sequel to September 29th; World Maritime Day, NIWA held an Essay competition among students on the IMO theme to gain insights on how technology can be used to solve needs of the maritime sector which NIWA is inclusive.
In the NIWA’s Managing Director’s speech at the IMO event, he pledged: “
It’s time for NIWA to take off their sleeping covers and live up to their pledge by employing technology and digital innovations in their service to inland water transport in the country.
The surveillance camera that NIWA claimed to be installing at sea during a media parley with the MD in the month of August; what is preventing that investment from being executed? If the CCTV Cameras are working they could help depict in reality what triggered the current boat mishaps rather than relying on rhetorics.
NIWA can have a tracking registered boat system for Identification and management of all boat riders in the country. This would enable all boats activities to be monitored while on shore by NIWA officials. This technology is done on international vessels and this can be replicated here. Just like how GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) can detect traffic routes, NIWA needs to onboard a technology that would detect sea tides and enable the units tracking the boat voyage to forestall it, till the tempest is calm. NIWA needs in-house metrological readers to predict the tides of the sea. They can collaborate with this digital revolution in the agency to read sea tides. The Nigerian Aviation sector uses metrological readers and we see improved results in the low incidents on plane crashes such that the last clash dates June 3, 2021.
Aside from these technological inputs, another pocket of actions and value NIWA could imbibe is having a surveillance team to monitor the activities of boat riders on sea. The surveillance team would monitor the departure of time, loading and compliance of wearing life jackets.
These relevant additions may entail that the water transport service cost may increase but safety is more guaranteed.