Danger as abandoned trawlers, barges litter Kirikiri waterfront
• As operators appeal to NPA, NIMASA on evacuation
Anxiety has heightened as abandoned fishing trawlers and barges constitute a danger for moving crafts along the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) waterfronts in Lagos.
Investigation reveals that most of the vessels have been abandoned for about a decade while others have been on the spot for years due to court injunctions. Others were moved there for repairs, maintenance and detention by regulatory authorities.
Some of the trawlers spotted last week, numbering twelve and owned by fishing trawler operators, were not seaworthy while others are in corrosive condition and beyond repairs.
There have been multiple boat mishaps in the last two years along the KLT waterways, a situation that has threatened water transportation within the axis.
The Guardian also gathered from multiple sources, who alleged that most of the trawlers are beyond repairs, as some of the owners deliberately abandoned them in front of their jetties for possible disposal as scrap.
According to them, some of the vessels are there with nobody questioning the abandonment, which poses danger to aquatic lives and navigation of smaller boats.
It was also gathered that barging activities have also faced some level of hiccups while berthing to offload cargoes. A barge operator, who craved anonymity, lamented that the movement of barges along the Kirikiri waterfront has experienced some level of challenges due to the development.
The barger decried government negligence towards the evacuation of some of the critical wrecks along the waterways, adding that the Kirikiri Lighter Terminals play host to a large volume of cargoes from the mother ports, namely the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC) Apapa and Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC).
He maintained that the waterfront is unsafe for navigation, calling on the relevant agencies to clear the jetties berthing some of the wrecks.
He also maintained that despite the presence of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) within the Kirikiri Lighter Terminals, waterways safety remains unsure.
Recall that NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) had last year, flagged off the first phase of the National Wreck Removal Exercise to rid the nation’s waterways of over 3,000 identified wrecks and derelicts.
The N30 billion wreck removal and recycling market exercise was divided into four phases including the Badagry-Tin-Can Island axis, Western Zone, Eastern Zone with headquarters in Port Harcourt, and Central Zone headquartered in Warri.
The Director-General of NIMASA had said the agency would issue a marine notice to the owners of abandoned vessels on the waterways to pick them up, noting that failure to remove them after the expiration of the time frame, the agency will remove, auction and recycle those that are alive.
The General Secretary, Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Haruna Omolajomo, who is also a barge operator, said these wreckages occupy lots of waterways or space and make manovering of barges impossible.
He said of all waterfronts in Lagos, that of Kirikiri running from Tincan port to Mile 2 seems to be the worst as the wrecks pose a looming and serious danger to users and their moving crafts.
Omolajomo said it is a known fact that some of the abandoned barges and trawlers are there because they are abandoned by their owners, some due to court cases, some for repairs, others for maintenance or detention by the regulatory agencies.
He said the wrecks of trawlers and barges that litter Kirikiri waterfronts should be a thing of concern to every stakeholder of the maritime industry, noting that for years, all concerned maritime regulatory agencies are being contacted to do something about this.
He said this has led to huge financial loss, which runs in billions of naira, explaining that more than 40 TEUs are being carried by a minimum standard barge with each container having a face value of between N45 million and N100 million.
“With the influx of barge containers and too much traffic movement of these tugboats and barges, the effects are many. To navigate through the waterways now is like passing through the eye of a needle. One is not surprised to see that accidents do occur in this corridor more than other waterfront corridors in Lagos.
“One would recall that in 2021, two major accidents were recorded in the Mile 2 area. Besides, we have a sand-carrying canoe that most often collides with barges carrying containers or at times barges to maneuver the big vessel involved in an accident. Even the human losses cannot be quantified too. Remember that lives were lost in the Apongbon area of Lagos two years back,” he said.
Omolajomo, however, called on the NIMASA, LASWA, NPA, the Federal and State Governments to collaborate to ensure that these wrecks are removed without further delay while calling for the closure of all illegal jetties along the kirikiri corridor.
“We must also acknowledge that some of these agencies indeed make bold steps to do something tangible for their removals. It is very painful that more still needs to be done to make the waterways free from this wreckage. Though most often, they claimed efforts were on or on top gear to remove them,” he added.