Vandalisation and theft of navigational buoys on the nation’s coastal and inland waters are currently threatening safe navigation of vessels, badges and boats to the nation’s seaports, LEADERSHIP has learnt.
Buoys are navigational aids on inland and coastal waters that mark and indicate safe water and where vessels can navigate safely within a channel. They guide and warn mariners as well as identify where potential hazards or submerged objects may be, or where they can moor vessels in lieu of anchoring.
Maritime experts liken buoys to traffic lights and other road signs that guide drivers on the roads, saying buoys, beacons and navigation lights do the same on water.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the former president, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Aminu Umar, said his company had procured buoys but that they were stolen on the waterways after two weeks.
According to him, the absence of buoys is a disaster-in-waiting for vessels navigating Nigerian waters as they are navigating blindly.
“The absence of buoys is very dangerous for safe navigation because the buoys are what give direction to where ships will navigate through and, if there are no buoys, it is like a driver driving with closed eyes on the express road; there is no way he won’t have an accident. It’s true that some shipowners, like me, have had to buy buoys on the waterways to have safe navigation, but only to discover that they were all gone after two weeks,” he said.
Umar further disclosed that navigational buoys at the Lagos pilotage district had all been vandalised and stolen by criminals.
“A majority of our navigational channels have no buoys. It is only at very few places in the Lagos pilotage district that you can see buoys. In places where there are wrecks that need indication, the buoys have been removed and sold. It’s really an unfortunate situation.
“So, what the NIWA managing director said is true, and it’s a very dangerous trend which I think there should be a way to stop, to make our waterways safe. It is in the interest of everyone, including the immediate community, to safeguard the buoys because without the buoys there is no way a vessel can do safe navigation in the channels.
“Also, another question we should be asking is, who are buying the buoys? If no one is buying, no one will vandalise it, so the government should look for those buying the buoys from the vandals because it is really very hazardous vandalising those critical safety equipment,” he pointed out.
The president, Shipowners Association of Nigerian (SOAN), Mcgreg Oyung, also lamented the toll the activities of vandals is having on the industry, describing it as a recipe for disaster.
Oyung, however, urged the government to ensure strict surveillance of the waterways to end the ugly trend.
According to him, the waterways without buoys is like driving without road signs, without traffic lights.
“Vandalisation of buoys shows a dangerous signal. With the way it’s going, very soon they will remove the control tower, and things are so bad that these desperate people stealing these things don’t know how useful they are. It’s like going into a maternity ward and stealing an incubator that is supposed to be for premature babies. For me, it’s a dangerous trend and we have to thank God that we have a deep blue project for security on the waterways.
“We have to end vandalisation of buoys and create an enabling environment for people to survive legitimately; however, the buoys are very essential because vessels cannot stop like cars. If you see a wreck or an obstacle, you have to stop 100 metres before you arrive there, and if there are no buoys, it’s very dangerous and I think something drastic should be done about this trend.
“Water without buoys is like driving with no road signs, no traffic lights. Buoys are artificial traffic wardens, with different definitions and significance so it is dangerous if they are missing. It’s necessary we have them; the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that says we should have them as a guide are not stupid. They should be replaced and secured for safe navigation,” he stressed.
The managing director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, had earlier raised the alarm that buoys were being stolen on the nation’s waterways by people in riverine communities.
He said the stealing is posing navigational danger for boat and barge operators in the nation’s seaports.
According to him, “We provide these navigational aids and vandals will go and remove them. They vandalise the buoys as well so that they can only be effective in the afternoon and not at night. Most of these vandals are from riverine communities because anyone who can’t swim can’t remove the lights on the buoys.”
He, however, appealed to leaders in the riverine communities to warn their youths about the consequences of vandalising buoys on waterways.