Maritime Accident: Nigeria, Sierra Leone Parley To Reduce Menace, Promote Safe Navigation In West, Central Africa

By Raheem Ibrahim

The Secretary General of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), Dr Paul Adalikwu has secured additional support from the government of Sierra Leone in the organidation’s drive to reduce maritime accidents and promote safe navigation in West and Central Africa.

The SG MOWCA who was in Freetown, to meet with the country’s Minister of Transport and Aviation, Ambassador Fanday Turay, expressed MOWCA’s concern over the various marine accidents involving ferries, boats, barges and other watercrafts, emphasized that such accidents are avoidable when safety measures and practices are adhered to.

He decried the loss of lives and investments occasioned by the various marine accidents and formally invited Sierra Leone to the regional workshop on safety of inland waterways and passenger ferries in West and Central Africa planned to hold in Libreville Gabon from 15-17 July, 2024, adding that MOWCA is organising the training in conjunction with the IMO and International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF).

Dr Adalikwu also drew attention to a boat accident that occurred in Gabon in 2023 where over 60 persons died and seven were declared missing saying the incident prompted MOWCA to approach Gabon to offer assistance in planning the workshop .

According to him, “I informed the minister that MOWCA is offering maritime training scholarship to 10 Sierra Leonian youths at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron as part of capacity building drive.

While urging West and Central African countries to prioritise training of operators of boats and ferries, he identified that some of the marine accidents in the sub region involved persons not trained and without any formal record of their particulars

He advised that water transportation being a critical mode of logistics should not be left unregulated or made an all comers affair in the interest of passenger and safety and avoiding commercial loses to trader victims

According to Adalikwu, “The workshop which will feature training and retraining of operators in the inland waterways space will serve as a train. The trainers session which is planned to be cascaded down the line.

Explaining further on the workshop, Adalikwu said “Our training faculty for the workshop will take participants through basic safety measures that are in sync with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) and basics of the Standard of Training Certification and Watch keeping (STCW) as they apply to inland waterways especially in areas of emergency and occupational safety for smaller platforms.

“We know SOLAS is tailored towards sea going vessels but measures for accident prevention and response mechanism to emergencies in inland waterways are similar. Findings have indicated that most people operating small boats for commercial transportation are not formally trained which poses great danger to travelers along the inland waterways

“We are also looking at rules of the road for water transportation particularly on ways to avoid collision in the event of crafts approaching each other” he said.

The SG gave his host a copy of MOWCA Publication of Annual Report of activities which includes meeting of the Council Ministers with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2022 in London, leading to the establishment of a MOWCA-IMO Joint Action Plan on areas of collaboration and cooperation. Consequent upon which the Committee of Experts from member States produced six (6) Working Groups on identified areas of needs will meet in Abidjan next month.

He informed that the Working Groups were inaugurated and had been meeting virtually, with a physical meeting coming up in Abidjan from 6-10 of May, 2024 for which invitations had been extended to Sierra Leone and other countries.

Responding, Ambassador Fanday Turay, expressed gratitude to Adalikwu and commended the zeal of the SG in reviving the organisation. The Minister recalled the age long existing relationship between Nigeria and Sierra Leone and in particular the support from Nigeria during their crises period.

He congratulated the SG for the good work that he has done since he came on board MOWCA and the collaborations that he has established with other international organizations.

Turay expressed that Sierra Leone was reviewing its maritime documents for onward submission to the Parliament and Cabinet and assured that this will help address such challenges that affect the country’s commitment to international bodies.

The Minister thanked the SG for the 10 scholarship slots at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, noting that most of the Sierra Leonian seafarers were aging and needing younger replacement, he therefore sees the scholarship as a good way to go.

Concerning the waterway transport the Minister informed the SG that they sought the assistance of the UNDP to support in the building of jetties as this will go a long way in their transport masterplan, with assurance to the SG of maximum cooperation at all times .

Dr Adalikwu also visited the country’s Deputy Minister of Finance Kadiatu Allie for further interaction to boost the country‚Äôs financial commitment to MOWCA.

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