A new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which must be complied with by all barge operators on Nigerian waters, will take effect from tomorrow, September 1, 2021.

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The acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, who made the disclosure during an interactive session with members of Barge Operators of Nigeria (BOAN), in Lagos, said the authority was poised to review the modalities for the registration of barge operating license with emphasis on operators meeting the minimum safety standards ((MSS) of their barges.

He said failure to meet this requirement would force the NPA to bar such operators from using the channels. Under the new set of regulations, an electronic call up system is being developed for deployment for barge operations in which barges would remain at their anchor until they are called to pick, or discharge cargo.

This is aimed at streamlining their movements to reduce congestion and possible threat to ocean going vessels. The NPA has, in this regard, also set out to capture a comprehensive profile of all barge operators, which will highlight the carriers’ corporate name to make for easy identification, especially in line with efforts to check the deployment of dilapidated barges that are in poor state and do not meet the minimum standards for barges and tugboats.

Koko, who said that it was a new era in barge operations, and all operators are required to key into the new regulatory provisions, also informed the barge operators that government has instituted a binding tariff scheme payable to the NPA, as well as to the operators.

“There would be a harmonised interactive session (berthing meetings) between the barge operators and the relevant designated port managers for specific areas, where information sharing would be prioritised accordingly,” he said.

These meetings are expected to create a forum where illegal barge and jetty operators would be identified. To create a relief for the barge operators, the NPA boss advised all terminal operators not to demand the collection of a N20m bank bond, with a promise to liaise with the relevant government agencies for a downward review of prevailing charges on carriage of containers.