Lagos opening up waterways
The number of commuters patronising ferries on Lagos waterways has risen from 600 to 2.5million monthly, between 2009 to now. This signals the state government’s resolve to exploit other means of transportation and take pressure off the congested roads which currently account for over 90 percent of movement in the state.
Industry watchers say the exploitation of the state’s waterways for transportation would ease congestion on the roads, reduce commuting time, create jobs, reduce house rents in the state by making some remote and cheaper locations such as Badore, in the outskirts of Ajah accessible.
Water transport lags behind other modes in Lagos, accounting for less than 2 percent of overall commuter volumes, in a state with an estimated population of 20 million inhabitants.
Experts have attributed this to poor waterway infrastructure and management in terms of dredging, mapping, lighting and safety surveillance, among others.
There is also the myth that many Lagosians have a phobia for water and would rather travel by road or rail. This myth has however been broken by the geometric rise in patronage of water transport, and industry watchers say if the system is well managed, especially as regards efficiency and safety, many more commuters will take boat rides.
The state government is taking steps to concession certain jetties to private managers and identifying some others for upgrade, ahead of plans to deploy standard ferries with state-of-the-art facilities including Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in aid of safe navigation.
Anofi Elegushi, acting commissioner for transportation in Lagos, confirmed the concession of the Mile 2 terminals to Messrs Crownsworth Nigeria Limited. The state government is also set to begin the dredging and channelisation of other routes.
The routes include Ikorodu, CMS, Lekki, Falomo, Ijegun, Ebute Ero, Apapa, Majidun, Badore and Mile 2.
Paul Kalejaiye, Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos Ferry Services (LAGFerry) told BusinessDay that standard vessels ordered by the government are expected to arrive in Lagos before the end of this year, and that this will bolster the confidence of commuters and encourage private investors to explore investment opportunities in the sector.
“I believe the arrival of these ferries will further increase commercial activities around the Lagos waterways. I expect that this will encourage other investors to look in the direction of this sector,” Kalejaiye said in an interview with BusinesDay.
Abisola Kamson, managing director, Lagos Waterways Authority (LASWA) the state regulatory agency, confirmed the increase in the number of commuters on the waterways and observed that safety remains the topmost priority of the agency.
Kamson said measures being taken include channelisation of the routes and deployment of cameras and other navigational aids, aimed at enhancing safety and making the sector more attractive to investors and commuters.
According to her, the ultimate goal is to integrate the waterways into the public transportation masterplan, with a target to grow monthly patronage from the current 2.5 to 15 million passengers within the next ten years,.
She attributes the increase in the use of the waterways to efforts by her agency to enforce safety standards, including the use of life jackets and a significant reduction in the frequency of accidents.
Kamson said the recent ruling of an Appeal Court, upholding the power of the Lagos State House of Assembly to make laws regulating and controlling economic and commercial activities within the state’s inland waterways was a further encouragement to deepen its enforcement of standards set for boat operators within the Lagos inland waterways. She further observes that the agency is building a database of boat operators, to enable it track their activities and effectively monitor their operations.
“Each vessel would be tracked with the new technology, to see the level of compliance with the safety measures we have introduced, including the use of life jackets, number of passengers per boat, engine capacity. There is going to be a total transformation on the waterways; a win-win situation for the state, operators and passengers.
“We expect that those engaged in any form of activities on the waterways would take advantage of this moment to register and be captured in our database or would be seen operating illegally. We are ready to apply sanctions and prosecute illegal operators in line with our laws. We will continue to enforce the use of life vest until the message we are trying to pass sinks in,” Kamson said.
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