Safety measures for water transport

MANY people travel on the water for various reasons. Some do it for leisure, just to feel the cool breeze and many do it for exploration. It could also be a tourist attraction for many who go as far as boarding ships on a long voyage. For some others, it may be the only means of transportation around them and they have no choice but to use it. One of the advantages of water transportation is that it is less expensive than rail, compared to road and air transportation. This invariably means it’s the cheapest means of transportation. It is also the best means of transporting heavy goods in many parts of the world. Its maintenance cost is the least out of all the various means of transportation. No matter why it is chosen as a means of transportation, it is essential to know there are many things to put into consideration when you decide to go on the waters, especially in the parts of the country where it is the major means of transportation.  There have been many reports of lives lost on the water in recent times. Sometimes in June this year, more than a hundred people got drowned and more went missing after a boat conveying them while traveling down the River Niger. They were traveling from Kwara State to Niger State after a wedding. The boat conveyed around 300 passengers. It capsized after a part of the vessel collapsed, causing water to flood the boat.

Another boat capsized some months ago, claiming the lives of two medical students in Cross River State. The incident happened at Marina Resort waterways in Calabar. Also in May this same year, it was also reported that about 15 people were feared dead after a boat carrying them alongside many other passengers capsized in Shagari Dam, Sokoto State. Looking at these few incidences, it is glaring that water accident is becoming rampant in recent times.  It should be noted that water transportation is one of the major sources of movement of people and goods especially in cities like Lagos and many riverside areas like the Niger Delta areas for many centuries.  This seems to be an easy way of transportation for these people because they are surrounded by water. Data from Nigeria Watch (which project monitors lethal violence and human security in Nigeria) shows that about 1,607 lives were cut short due to boat tragedies between June 2006 and May 2015.

Whoever wants to travel by water should know some basic safety rules. This may go a long way to reducing the rate at which water accidents occur. It is essential to wear a life jacket. Every outfit that gives a boat or two out for transportation must be enforced to make provision for life jackets for as many people as they will be on board. Anyone opting for that particular means of transportation should also at least know how to swim. It will at least avail the person the chance to fight for his life to an extent by swimming to the shores before help arrives.  The weather forecast should be checked before setting sail. This will help to know if it is safe to proceed or not. The sailor of each boat should have a radio or satellite phone so they can communicate with the control station in case of emergency. All boating laws should be strictly adhered to. All the crew should be well-versed in this regard because their lives and that of everyone on board depend on it. The skipper or seaman driving the boat must be on the lookout for other boats and obstacles at all times. Boats should not be overloaded. This can cause them to lose balance while at sea. There should also be first aid on board. This can help in case anyone comes down with seasickness or there is an emergency. Boats should be in good condition and must have all necessary safety equipment. Any boat that is not travel-worthy should not be allowed to leave the shore. There have been cases of boats developing faults while on water. It is not easy to get help to fix boats while in the middle of the water, unlike on the land where you can easily call for help, especially at night.  Skippers should avoid boating in areas that have strong currents or high waves.  All boats must have proper lighting for nighttime travel. Every boat should be ready for emergency cases. They should be trained and must let everyone on board know once things are getting out of hand, and designate specific roles for everyone onboard. They should have a backup power source such as extra batteries at all times. They should be made to train regularly for emergency scenarios to ensure that everyone on board is prepared. If all these are put in place by the operators and those taking people on boat trips, they will help during cases of emergency.

Another question to be answered is: how can our waterways be made safer so as to curtail the needless loss of lives? Despite the Nigerian government bringing about the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), established in 1997, water accidents have not been reduced.  The government might need to up its game by equipping the body to be more proactive than before. This organization has regulatory functions that include issuance and control of licenses for inland navigation, piers, jetties, and dockyards. It is the body that grants licenses to private inland watercraft. It is also responsible for the approval of designs and construction of inland river crafts. The government must ensure that it is carrying out its duties as expected to ensure the safety of everyone patronizing that means of transportation.

NIWA must ensure boats that aren’t worthy are not put on the waters. There should be proper monitoring. It should be fully involved. There must be the provision of everything the body needs to be able to carry out its activities.

Source: Nigeria Tribune

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