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The growing interest in water transportation by residents of Lagos State has received an encouraging response from the State Government.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, expanded the capacity of the Lagos State Ferry Services (LAGFERRY) with the delivery of seven additional high-capacity speed boats to shore up the agency’s fleet for rapid transit on the waterways.
The Governor flagged off the use of the new boats for commercial operations at an event held at the administrative yard of the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Five Cowries Terminal in Falomo, Ikoyi.
Also at the event, Sanwo-Olu launched the use of Cowry Card for passengers using water transportation to create a seamless payment scheme in line with the State’s multimodal transportation system. This integrates the LAGFERRY services to an automated payment solution already created for the BRT services and the State-owned rail lines, which are coming on board.
LAGFERRY has moved over 500,000 passengers in the past year with 14 boats it previously acquired. With the additional boats to its fleet, the agency now has improved efficiency and capacity to move close to a million passengers across Lagos waterways yearly.
Sanwo-Olu, represented at the event by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the procurement of the new boats was in fulfillment of his Government’s pledge to boost the fleet of LAGFERRY and increase its capacity to transport more Lagosians daily in order to reduce traffic congestion on the roads.
He said: “The impressive performance of LAGFERRY in the last one year is an indication of the growing confidence of the residents in water transportation. This justifies our decision to procure additional boats to enhance LAGFERRY’s operations and capacity to meet the transportation demands of its teeming passengers. The procurement of these new high-capacity boats is in fulfillment of our promise to double the number of boats in the fleet of LAGFERRY and increase its capacity to reduce traffic congestion on our roads.
“We are also launching the Cowry Card for water transportation to create a seamless payment scheme for our Multimodal Transportation System, which is gradually taking shape as we have commenced the integration of our rail lines, bus terminals and waterways. I am pleased to inform you that we are already witnessing positive outcomes from our investment in the safety and viability of our waterways as a safe alternative to road transportation.”
The Governor said the Government was currently undertaking the construction and rehabilitation of 15 jetties across the State, as well as embarking on the dredging of the Lagos lagoon to open up more routes in waterway transportation.
An enhanced LAGFERRY’s operations, Sanwo-Olu said, would help the State Government to promote tourism and boost commerce by providing logistics solutions to business owners seeking to move their trucks and cargoes through the waterways within Apapa and also through regular charter services.
He said Government alone could not be the value provider in the water transportation sector, noting that there were countless economic opportunities to be explored in the area. The Governor invited investors in the private sector investors to join in the efforts to strengthen waterways infrastructure.
He said: “I assure you that we will continue to support private sector participation in water transportation by putting in place the most appropriate regulatory framework for high returns on investment. We have significantly upgraded the capacity of our regulatory agency, LASWA, to adequately cater for the needs of passengers with safety being our topmost objective.
“Plans are underway to boost safety measures and protocols with the deployment and installation of technological devices for improved navigation, the development of nautical charts and the purchase of state-of-the-art patrol boats and safety equipment to upgrade LASWA’s SAR unit. We remain committed to developing modern waterways transport, as well as carry out constant monitoring and enforcement patrol of the inland waterways.”
Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladehinde, said the Government’s approach to solving the State’s transportation gap was to adopt an all-round approach which took cognizance of the development of all modes of transportation.
“The ongoing Transport Sector reform is aimed at boosting the water transportation as a genuine modal option which allows the people to drop their cars and commute by ferries,” the Commissioner said.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of LAGFERRY, Hon. Abdoulbaq Balogun, said the State-owned operator, which commenced its operations in February 2020, had a mandate to move 30 per cent of commuters through the waterways. With the addition to the fleet, he said the agency had scaled up its carrying capacity to 710 passengers per trip.
Since inception, Balogun said LAGFERRY had not recorded any accident, but had raised the standard of ferry operations on the State’s waterways. He said all passengers on the LAGFERRY boats now enjoy insurance cover on all trips.
He said: “After 317 days of operations, LAGFERRY has ferried over 524,000 passengers through the waterways with an increasing daily average passenger flow of over 1,500. A total of 12-seater boats have collectively ran 7,061 hours spanning 286,280 kilometers for 10,182 trips.
“The Sanwo-Olu administration is deepening the usage of water transportation with the procurement and activation of seven new boats built by local boat builders. The boats are built to international standard and equipped with modern gadgets, such as wifi, GPS, Echo Sounder, VHF Radio, USB Charging ports, 13amp sockets, television and radio, toolbox, First Aid box, and fire extinguishers.”
Balogun led Dr. Hamzat and members of the State Executive Council on inaugural trips in the new boats after they were officially launched by the Deputy Governor.
The new boats launched include two units of 50-seater and five units of 30-seater, with one utility boat for operational purposes. They will operate on all approved routes for LAGFERRY, and passengers are to use the Cowry Card for payment for the ferry services.